When a company claims to be "green," how can you tell just how green it is? I always lean towards encouraging whatever progress a business has made, rather than dwelling on the work that remains undone. I know that there are many in the business world who sincerely want to make a difference.
On the other hand, many companies want to convince us that their disposable diapers are greener than the next ones, or that if you buy their products, all the birds will sing and Mother Nature will be happy.
To help you rate your local company, and to help companies assess their own progress, I have devised a seven-step evolutionary scale of company greening.
Most companies have been thinking environmentally for only two or three years. As you will see from the scale, the process of "deep greening" involves some very profound shifts that cannot happen overnight. So my advice is be patient – and gently encourage a company to do more.
Step One: Green Trimmings
The company makes a symbolic nod in the right direction and offers five green products among 5,000 ungreen ones, coupled with a big green marketing push.
Stage Two: Green Cuffs
As well as its small green product line, the company orders in-house paper recycling and stocks up with environmentally sound cleaning liquids. "Switch-off" reminders are placed by light switches and the company runs a regular column on the environment in the company newsletter.
Stage Three: Green Clothes
The company commissions an in-depth environmental audit, appoints an environmental vice president, adopts an environmental mission statement, and includes an environmental section in its annual report. Management institutes permanent changes in such areas as waste management, packaging, transportation, paper use, pollution control, employee involvement, eliminating ozone-depleting substances, etc. They develop a solid green product line and adopt a policy on social responsibility.
Stage Four: Green Body
The company redesigns its product line to eliminate toxins and non-recyclables at the source. They do a complete materials-use analysis, with a view to long-term sustainability and recyclability. They examine and overhaul their purchasing policy to ensure that they are supporting sustainability down the line. They adopt a policy on global responsibility.
Stage Five: Green Brains
The company develops and implements a long-term business plan designed to achieve environmental sustainability and effects a strategic redeployment of its assets and resources into sustainable products and activities (for example, shifting from oil to solar). This entails a major shareholder education plan to protect themselves from hostile takeover bids.
Stage Six: Green Heart
The company undertakes the transfer of its company stock from the open "value-free" marketplace, where all that matters is the financial bottom line, into stock ownership funds guided by social, environmental, and global responsibility standards. It develops a community co-ownership program for local plants and branch offices.
Stage Seven: Green Soul
At this final stage, the company embarks on a conscious evolution of its overall goals, policies, practices, and processes, to shift into a mode of planetary service. This is a shift that many individuals are undertaking in their lives in response to the planetary situation. This involves asking the question: "How will this benefit the planet, the environment, the community, the customer, and the work team?" and incorporating the answers into every action.
As the company does this, it will discover that it is experiencing an unparalleled release of synergy and co-creativity in the pursuit of higher goals.
Guy Dauncey is the author of After The Crash, The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy, published by Green Print, and is the environmental consultant on the Bamberton project