‘Business as usual’ is a thing of the past, and as our natural resources and ecosystems come more and more into play as assets to be protected rather than commodities to be exploited, businesses big and small are taking note – and action.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the U.S. were associated with the production of green goods and services, accounting for 2.4 percent of total U.S. employment in that year. Of the total, 2.3 million jobs were in the private sector. (BLS, Mar 2012, 1).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Sloan School of Management measured sustainability innovation by interviewing global executives over a 3- year period through their Sustainability Initiative. Their 2011 study found the following:
- 68 percent of respondents said their organizations increased their commitment to sustainability over the past year, a dramatic increase from 2009, when only 25 percent of respondents said that (Brokaw, 2011).
- 67 percent said that sustainability strategies were necessary to be competitive. That’s a 12 percentage point increase from 2010 (Brokaw, 2011).
- Sustainability became increasingly important to top management, survey respondents said: 28 percent percent believed it was a permanent and core strategic consideration and 42 percent said that although it’s not a core consideration, it is nonetheless on the agenda – to stay (Brokaw, 2011)
There are over 1,200 businesses globally who have pledged 1% of annual sales to over 3,600 conservation nonprofits of their choice through 1% For The Planet.
There is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.
The number of ways to participate in local, regional, national or international conservation efforts grows by the day. And whether it’s climate, forest health, open space or any number of other issues, its no longer the nonprofit community and ‘fringe’ activists that are carrying the banner of planetary protection. Today’s eco-advocates include some of the largest and most profitable businesses, nonprofit partners, and a global consumer culture that is growing together to build a better world.
Water at the Forefront
Last week, the California Coastkeeper Alliance (CCKA) and 12 regionally-based nonprofit Waterkeeper organizations announced the launch of the Blue Business Council (BBC), a network of California businesses working to protect what they believe is the state of California’s most valuable and threatened natural capital—its coast, ocean, bays, rivers, and streams.
California’s ‘blue economy’ is a study of contrasts. California’s coast, bays, and rivers power a $106 billion tourism industry and a $39 billion ocean economy. But half of California’s waterways are currently too polluted for swimming, fishing or drinking. The State’s coastal cities and counties spend $420 million annually cleaning up trash and marine debris, and poor water quality at Southern California beaches sickens one million swimmers every year.
The Blue Business Council has come together to address this growing dichotomy. BBC’s founding members are a diverse group of like-minded businesses spanning California, from La Jolla in the south to Humboldt in the north. Founding Council members are: Patagonia, REI, New Belgium Brewing, Clif Bar, Sunski Sunglases, Pura Vida Bracelets, Santa Barbara Adventure Company, Channel Island Outfitters, Poseidon Vineyard, Pro SUP Shop, Shelter Co., Humboldt Bay Oyster & Tourism, Hotel Healdsburg, and h2hotel.
“As an outdoor business with our headquarters in coastal California for 40 years, we care deeply about protecting and cleaning-up our waterways to ensure that they are swimmable, fishable, and drinkable” said Hans Cole, Environmental Campaigns and Advocacy Manager, Patagonia, Inc. “The Blue Business Council brings a strong new voice on this front, and we support California Coastkeeper Alliance’s efforts to engage this group of likeminded citizens and businesses in action and advocacy.”
Blue Business Council members recognize the importance of clean and plentiful water by taking the Clean Water Pledge. Collectively, members will be working to support policies and practices that address threats to water resources such as drought, trash, and polluted runoff.
“Water is a renewable resource, but it is not inexhaustible,” said Sara Aminzadeh, Executive Director of California Coastkeeper Alliance. “California’s current drought underscores the need for decisive action and innovative policy reforms to protect our blue economy.”
Learn more about the Blue Business Council here, and follow @BlueBizCouncil on Twitter.
CCKA is not alone in it’s mission to unite business towards a common conservation goal. The Conservation Alliance, founded by REI, Kelty, the North Face and Patagonia in 1989 now boasts 185 member companies and will generate $1.7 million in conservation giving in 2014. The Conservation Alliance’s ‘Backyard Collective’ efforts further engage hundreds of employees in hands-on community restoration efforts and environmental initiatives every year across the country.
The Change the Course campaign currently being spearheaded by National Geographic, The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Participant Media and 1% For The Planet is another collaborative effort that targets dwindling water resources through an online pledge campaign that literally puts water back into the Colorado River through consumer action.
These innovative examples highlight the changing tide in the way businesses view their role in today’s evolving society. No longer is it enough to profit simply in the name of economic return. These companies, and a growing number of consumers, have made the conscious effort to ‘give back to blue’ with the understanding that there are no jobs – and not much joy – on a dead planet.
By Eric Cardenas, LoaTree. Banner photo (Salmon River) by Shannon Switzer.