Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Was Kermit Right?

Several weeks ago I attended the Annual Conference for the Women’s Presidents Organization in Vancouver, BC. One of our keynotes on the last day was Mae Jemison, and she pushed the group to think about our world environment and the impact our businesses are having on the world. She asked us if we were really being good stewards in how we run our businesses. My table had, at the gist, the following questions posed to us:

1) Run your company for maximum profits and ignore the environmental impacts, and

2) Sacrifice profits, make less money but operate in an environmentally respectful way.

I was seated at a table of all manufacturers and I am proud to say we all decided that there was actually a third option – respect the earth and still make maximum profits. Maybe since we are manufacturers we think in a more solution minded manner. But I do feel that one option does not need to be exclusive of the other.

So this question has been bouncing around in my brain ever since the conference. And I keep asking myself, is it really that hard for a business to be “green”? Flashbacks of my childhood came to mind and I remember Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street singing, “It Is Not Easy Being Green.”

Now let me just say I am not talking about “green” to the level like my state of California is trying to mandate in AB32 or the green chemistry initiative.

I am talking about common sense, how do I run my company to the best of its ability and make my product for a profit and impact the environment as little as possible. I understand that there are some companies that won’t make changes unless mandated, but let me just live in a world, for a few minutes, where people are responsible for their actions and feel a responsibility to run their companies for the good of the bottom line, as well as the environment.

Bishop-Wisecarver’s first step on this journey was to become a Bay Area Green Business.The process was not too difficult. We had to make a few changes and investments in our business and go through several audits but the changes we made where good financially, as well as environmentally. We use less water and electricity and thus save money on an ongoing basis. We also received rebates for several of the investments, and that made it even less painful.

We are very focused on LEAN/Continuous Improvement methodologies. To me, this is really the basis of a good “green” program. We now strive for more commonality of parts (fewer materials) and faster more efficient processes (less energy and processing materials). When we look at the improvement of our capital equipment, many solutions offer better efficiencies with less scrap, little to no coolants and a reduction of other chemicals. Designing closed loop systems that recycle fluids etc. also help to reduce our impact on the environment.

So, I wonder is Kermit really right? Is it hard to be “green” or is it really just more the discipline of looking at how to run your business in a more efficient way? One that improves your bottom line as well as reduces your impact on the environment; not regulated by government, but regulated by common sense to use the least amount of resources (lower costs) to produce your product? What do you think?

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