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Getting Started: What it Takes to Go Green

For businesses, "going green" has the air of inevitability.

Carl Gagliardi, President of The Gagliardi Group LLC, has been taking companies by the hand and guiding them through the rapidly changing scene of environment and sustainability. Many businesses embrace this market-based environmental trend, but for some that might prefer not to bother, there may be no option.

Investors, customers and the environmental community are pushing firms to think green, and as bigger corporations respond, they are insisting their suppliers and associated companies change, too.

"A small manufacturer or retailer in Memphis may get a call from Wal-Mart or IBM or Procter & Gamble or Coca Cola that has supply chain initiatives to green internal operations," Gagliardi says.

These large companies are pushing their thousands of suppliers to go greener, and "many companies that hadn't thought about it are suddenly turning on a dime and trying to meet sustainability requirements in a hurry."

Whether the business initiates it on their own or is being pushed, they'll all find a thicket of green standards and certifications. "There's a whole new body of knowledge to say you are truly sustainable," Gagliardi says.

But there is a learning curve.


According to Gagliardi, there are three things a business needs to start with to make the transition to green a success.

First: conduct a meaningful self-examination and a review of processes, such as the energy use, and understand that the environment requires a life cycle view.

Second: understand as quickly as possible how sustainability works and what the emerging standards are.

Third: secure the expertise needed to do sustainability the right way from the start and as cost-effectively as possible..

At one time, companies could get by with simply declaring they were taking environmentally friendly action. The ante has been going up — nowadays showing what and how you’re doing isn't sufficient. "There are now environmental management systems, performance standards and certification standards that you have to apply to and be authenticated by before your sustainability claims are accepted," Gagliardi says.

There are even standards for reporting your progress. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a voluntary but authoritative and systematic way of reporting a company's sustainability performance using a standard set of internationally recognized metrics.

"What's relatively new is that independent verifiable international standards like the GRI can be audited," Gagliardi says. And this is what more multinational companies are demanding from other companies in their supply chains, something akin to standard financial reporting.

Gagliardi says that companies that hire his consulting firm may find that the process of effectively going green gets complicated. Once it's determined that they want or need to measure and document their sustainability, some business owners run into unexpected issues, anything from dealing with proprietary corporate information to marketing and branding concerns to fitting current practices with emerging sustainability standards.

Gagliardi, and his firm's CEO Kathi Rowzie, work with companies to develop policies, strategies and a management system that take into account the various directions and choices that need to be made.

"One of the first things I get asked is what type of resources, chemicals, finished goods or other materials clients should use in the design of their products or services. They want to know what to look for in their choice of environmentally responsible suppliers and even what kind of energy to purchase or generate if they have a choice," Gagliardi says. "They ask, 'What kind of facility should we move into? How should it be built? When we make a product, do we need a program to dispose of in a different way?' "

He says many questions arise from business owners who consider one-time programs like recycling as synonymous with sustainability. "But corporate sustainability has moved on to other areas — travel, procurement, services, and so on. Frequently 50 percent of what I do is help companies to create policies, systems and structures to answer these questions."

The market-based environmental movement hasn't hit all businesses equally. "It tends to move from industry to industry," Gagliardi says, with some of the earlier adopters being companies dealing with forest products, hospitality and plastics. "Environmental groups are always looking to see what the next opportunity is and which companies to approach."

Some of the acronyms that a company looking at sustainability changes may want to know include:
  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): rating systems for design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.
  • ISO 14000 and ISO 14001: A series of voluntary environmental standards, with ISO 14001 covering environmental auditing, performance evaluation, labeling, and life-cycle assessment. ISO stand for the International Organization for Standardization in Geneva.
  • FSC and SFI: Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifications.

To find out more about the Gagliardi Group, visit http://www.thegagliardigroup.com/

-- Jon W. Sparks


Posted: 6/29/2012 10:48:51 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, chamber, consult, consultation, corporate, eco, gagliardi, green, memphis, sustainability, sustainable



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THE M BLOG
The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 (cmeek@memphischamber.com) or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (jfish@memphischamber.com).

 

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