Tough Economic Times & the Green Movement
Recently, I served as a guest panelist for two events: the Pittsburgh Business Times Leadership Dialogue Series in downtown Pittsburgh, and the Wall Street Journal event in Chicago, “Top Small Workplaces.” Both events were podcast which was rather fun. What struck me at both of these conferences is that no matter what the venture, small business owners are dealing with leading their companies through tough economic times and integrating into the green movement.
At the Leadership Dialogue Series, the conversation was on the economic opportunities and solutions that the green movement brings to businesses and to Pennsylvania. Integrating sustainable practices into our buildings and operations not only makes our companies more competitive and resilient, but it also addresses the increased health risks due to poor indoor air quality, addresses sick building syndrome, energy usage, waste, climate change, etc..
It was fitting that Rebecca Flora, Executive Director of the Green Building Alliance and Board Chair of the U.S. Green Building Council was on the panel with me. Just as Berner has been a pioneer in energy savings and comfortable environments for over 50 years, Rebecca has been a pioneer in the green building movement, driving Pittsburgh to construct the first green convention center and getting corporations with large footprints like PNC Bank on board the green bus.
A few weeks later, I spoke at the Top Small Workplaces Conference. Every year, the Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces team up for this conference and awards ceremony in Chicago. Top Small Workplaces was established to award exceptional small businesses that excel in balancing innovation and high productivity with flexibility and personal growth. I was a winner in 2004 and have been asked back as a judge and speaker in the years since 2004. This year, the theme was “Creating Enduring Small Businesses.” A lot of the conversation was about surviving the economic downturn and cutting costs while maintaining a rewarding working environment for employees. But which costs? Well, integrating sustainable practices often allows you to do more with less. One cost that I believe should not be cut in hard times is marketing. Marketing helps bring in sales. I believe that we should look not just at what can be cut, but also at how we can do things differently, what can we do to conserve and to make the most of what we have?
Economic downturn. Green movement. The latter is a solution to the former. Out of adversity comes opportunity. But if you don’t market the problems, it is tough to sell the solutions. I see this belief becoming more and more widespread. The underlying message at both events was that to lead their companies through tough times, today’s small business owners should view the green movement as a competitive opportunity, whether as a guide to what they can do to improve their overhead, processes and products or as a consumer trend to which they can market and sell.
And the best part is that not only is the green movement about cutting costs, it is about taking care of our people and our planet – of having a good place to live and work, and a strong future to hand to our children.