Being Green – Corporate Responsibility

Hi Folks:

When I first started writing the ‘Being Green‘ section of our blog it grew out of my own interest in green building and it focused primarily in that direction.  However, as I’ve gone along I’ve expanded this series to include more general ideas concerning living ‘green’, sustainability and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).  Now, I’m far from a CSR ‘expert’, but I wanted to highlight a really interesting report put out this year by a group called the ‘International Society of Sustainability Professionals‘ (ISSP).  The report, entitled, “What are the Core Competencies Sustainability Professionals Need to Have?” is available as a .pdf download, here.  It’s 65 pages long, and I must admit I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I have found what I’ve read to be quite valuable.  The report is targeted primarily toward two groups of people: a) those who are working in the CSR field as either independent consultants or corporate employees; b) those who work in HR and who are most likely to interact with those in group ‘a’.  I don’t work in either of those fields, but I think the underlying ideas of communication, financial and environmental sustainability, problem solving, etc. (some of the key findings) really affect everyone, no matter their industry or their position in a given company or corporation.  One thing we continue to discover more and more is that we are all connected, whether we’re discussing a corporation (with its suppliers and clients), an ecosystem or a planet.  In short, I think it’s a valuable report for everyone to read. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Questions?

Hi Folks:  Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  I was originally going to call this post ‘Being Green – Tradeoffs’, but decided to change it.  Let me explain.

A couple of decades ago I was hired to do environmental work for a gas pipeline construction contract taking place across several Canadian provinces.  The pipeline company was ‘looping’ – adding extra lengths of pipe that would eventually be joined to make another line.  Basically this involved widening the existing right of way and digging a trench some 15′ deep and wide enough for a 4′ diameter pipe.  As the environmental inspector on the job my function varied depending on where I was working.  On the prairies the largest consideration was topsoil preservation, whereas in northern Ontario it was timber removal and water crossings.  There was a manual that outlined the job in some detail, and there were of course existing provincial and federal laws; part of my work was acting as liaison with local agencies with regard to environmental concerns.  The bottom line was that the pipe was going in the ground, and my challenge was to work with the gas company and the contractor to do it in a way that caused the least environmental impact without overly inflating the construction costs.  In practical terms, every day was about trade-offs.  I’m sure just about everyone reading this has experienced this in their own way.

Earlier this week I listened to a webinar with  “Interior Designer and Green Building Insider” Patricia Gaylor, called “Living Eco-logically: Sustainability with Style”.  In her talk Ms. Gaylor mentioned doing a kitchen remodel where the clients insisted on having granite countertops.  As granite is a mined resource and not renewable, it’s not exactly a ‘green’ option.  Ms. Gaylor’s suggestion to her clients was that to offset using granite for the countertops they might agree to using “Energy Star“-rated appliances… a trade-off. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Taking Responsibility

Hi Folks:

Responsibility is kind of a dirty word in our society today.  It brings to mind image of blame and finger pointing, and I think we associate the idea of responsibility with the transition from the freedom of childhood to the daily grind of being an adult. Still, is being responsible really a bad thing? If you look up the word ‘responsibility’ in the dictionary you’ll encounter words like duty, obligation, accountability, consequence… but you’ll also find other ways of defining responsibility – like trust, worth, or more simply, ‘able to respond’.

Elaine Cohen is an e-friend of mine (@elainecohen for all you Twitter users) who runs a business dealing with corporate social and environmental responsibility.  It’s definitely a growing field, at least partly because the people who run those corporations are waking up to the fact that being responsible is good for the company, good for the planet, and good for business.  I’m old enough to remember a time when ‘corporate America’ (not to pick on any one nation, but it was and is a common term) meant groups of companies that put their profit above all else, and some multi-national corporations not only had a larger footprint than some countries, they were also bound to the laws of no country in particular.  If things got too ‘hot’ or too expensive to operate somewhere, they’d simply close down and move somewhere else.  Such companies still exist of course, but they’re becoming the dinosaurs of this new age.  CSRs (corporate responsibility reports) are showing up on websites all over the world, with varying degrees of success.  Still, I think all of their efforts should be applauded.  As has been said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Continue Reading →