Green has always been associated with money (or that queasy feeling you get on a turbulent airplane ride). But only recently has it become known as a social movement unto itself. There has been such a strong push to “go green” that companies are doing everything they can to go the eco-friendly mile. So how far does a company have to go before it can call itself a sustainable green business?
Efforts to standardize a green model have already been made by the computer industry not-for-profit Object Management Group. Along with Green Computing Impact Organization, founded last year by Karen Larkowski, these efforts were incorporated into OMG’s program initiatives. The model will help green entire businesses.
“The maturity model is a work in progress,” says Larkowski, “but it is designed so that companies can have a standardized way of looking at how sustainable their business is…how you manage your business processes, and how you can manage paper, water, energy, and people.”
There are six different areas that the green model looks at, and stages that determine a company’s overall progress. Although this is a live model and specifics are subject to change, OMG has currently billed facilities management, corporate procurement and supply chain, governance and business processes, operations, and data as vital greening areas of every company.
Businesses will be ranked in five stages based on the model’s analysis of their operations. As a stage one company, you’re in the planning phase but “you haven’t done much,” explains Larkowski. “At stage five, you are pretty advanced in terms of looking at all the different areas of your business and you’re really doing well in terms of sustainability.” Additionally, the levels in between allow businesses to work their way up, measuring and promoting green within their organization.
Internationally, OMG, an international company, is working with lenders, users and environmental activists to develop the model. When a new green standard is established, GCIO will focus on education and promotion. Their hope is twofold: software development companies will create software based on the model, and consulting firms will adopt it as part of their auditing processes.
Waste management—an oft-forgotten aspect of company efficiency—is receiving plenty of attention from Austin-based start-up, GreenRose IT.com. The year-old company analyzes companies’ business practices, targets areas for improvement, and implements a consolidation study, which shows more businesses how more sustainable practices can result in operation costs.
Paper waste is the single largest component of municipal solid waste in the United States, and a great place to start when making the effort to go green. “It costs more money to dispose of paper than it does to produce it,” says Marco Martinez, CEO and founder of GreenRose IT.com. “Companies don’t have an internal team to look at paper waste; we want to become a league of experts dedicated to showing companies what to look for.”
While the company provides analytical services, it partners with ACR Engineering, Inc., Agular, Cephei Technology Group, and Echo Earth Media to promote software development that identifies wasteful aspects of a company, creates processes that untangle the problems, and digitizes all aspects of that company’s output.
Martinez explains how the computer and consulting elements work together.
“If you add consulting to the mix, you can have business improvement,” he says. “If you add software development, you can make it more functional. It’s not forcing components, but bringing them together and making them work in a positive manner. You don’t just say you’re going paperless tomorrow, that’s a tough thing to do.”
With deforestation continuing at an alarming rate and the world’s environmental consciousness peaked, expectations for businesses are changing. Long gone are the days of unnoticed waste; policy changes, taxation, and mandates are the wave of the future, including the “clean energy” vision of the current administration. Martinez jokes that an unwillingness to go green has the same stigma as communist red. “You want your company to be associated with the movement,” he explains, “or you will be blacklisted as being a wasteful company.”
“We think green is more than an environmental issue,” says Larkowski. “It’s looking at how you sustain your business through lack of resources; whether that lack of resources be energy, water, paper, people, space—it’s a matter of keeping your business going.”
For the consumer, the shareholder, and the stakeholder, it is important to know the level of a business’s sustainability and maturity. Creating a uniform way of assessing a business’s efforts at sustainability—and providing the tools to help them improve—will get more companies on the right track.
“Sometimes [companies] go into these things with the best intentions, but if you don’t know where to begin it’s difficult to get to the end result,” says Larkowski. “And if everybody’s working on this, then why not work together to come up with a standard way of doing it?”