Gareth Kane from Terra Infirma explains the real reason for going green with a case study from EAE Ltd
EAE Ltd is a small Scottish logistics firm, specialising in distributing those leaflets for castles, bird of prey centres and heritage railways you find in B&Bs, rural pubs and tourist information centres. The company’s main depot is on a small, grey industrial estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh, but there’s nothing nondescript about the site itself – a 6kW wind turbine dominates the skyline, there’s an extensive recycling centre out the back and a wildlife garden encircles the buildings. The turbine provides energy for lighting and appliances by day and charges up an electric van and a forklift truck overnight. In addition, all drivers receive eco-driving training and routes are meticulously planned to save fuel. Groups of school children are regularly given guided tours of the site to learn about the green technology and business processes.
All very laudable, but for many the big question is “why bother?” EAE doesn’t produce huge amounts of toxic waste, consume much energy or endanger protected habitats. Their utility bills are modest and many of the measures they’ve installed will not provide a direct return on investment in terms of cost savings. And it hasn’t been easy either - getting the wind turbine installed took more than two years, involved 22 different organisations, and a number of gruelling battles with authorities. So, why do they bother?
Well, owner and Managing Director Glen Bennett initially came at this transformation from an ethical point of view. He simply wanted to do the right thing and run the business the way he thought it should be run. But more and more he’s noticing a real business benefit to being a green company. EAE is part of other organisations’ supply chain and therefore part of their carbon footprint. As a result, many of those customers are expecting their suppliers to up their green game. When tendering for contracts in tight, competitive markets, points for environmental performance can be the difference between success and failure. And as Bennett says “our one wind turbine is worth a hundred environmental policies as it proves we are serious about this.”
Most small businesses don’t understand this business opportunity – unsurprisingly as many so-called experts are urging them to “go green, save money”. This is short sighted as the public sector and huge private sector buyers like Marks & Spencer, IKEA and Tesco are aggressively greening their supply chain, and you need to be able to compete on cost, quality and the environment. By meeting these market demands, the top line benefits of going green can outweigh potential cost savings by an order of magnitude or more. Enlightened companies, like EAE Ltd, who invest to compete for green kudos are flourishing, leaving the penny pinchers floundering in their wake.
Gareth Kane runs his own sustainability consultancy, Terra Infirma Ltd (www.terrainfirma.co.uk), and is the author The Green Executive (http://www.earthscan.co.uk/?tabid=102762)
This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Gareth Kane .
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