Opportunity
is
Green


By
S.
Dev
Appanah
 In
The
Corporation,
what
is
now
a
monumental
documentary,
Ray
Anderson,
founder
of
carpet
tile
 company
Interface,
confesses
to
his
plundering
past,
“One
day
early
in
this
journey
it
dawned
on
me
 that
the
way
I’d
been
running
Interface
is
the
way
of
the
plunderer;
plundering
something
that’s
not
 mine,
something
that
belongs
to
every
creature
on
earth.
And
I
said
to
myself,
my
goodness,
the
day
 must
come
when
this
is
illegal,
when
plundering
is
not
allowed.
It
must
come.
So,
I
said
to
myself,
my
 goodness,
some
day
people
like
me
will
end
up
in
jail”.
Ray’s
‘confession’
marks
a
tipping
point
in
the
 world
of
business
and
economics.
 For
a
long
time,
we
have
taken
for
granted
that
business
can
rape
and
pillage
the
planet
in
search
of
 profits
while
handing
out
small
amounts
of
philanthropy
to
non‐profits
to
clean
up
the
mess
that
is
 left
behind.
Capitalism,
as
practiced
today,
might
be
financially
profitable,
but
it
is
definitely
 unsustainable
for
human
development.
We
have
failed
to
attach
values
to
our
largest
and
fast
 depleting
stocks
of
capital
‐
natural
resources,
living
systems
and
the
environment.
We
extract
raw
 materials
at
really
low
costs,
use
labour
and
technologies
to
transform
these
resources
into
products
 which
are
ultimately
sold
for
profits,
and
then
somehow
discard
the
waste
created
somewhere.
 At
the
same
time,
we
have
ingrained
ourselves
in
a
mindset
that
has
long
become
obsolete.
We
 continue
to
delineate
for‐profit
entities
as
creators
of
economic
value
and
non‐profit
organizations
as
 creators
of
social
value.
There
are
many
inherent
problems
with
this
mindset.
We
can
clearly
see
that
 the
creation
of
value
in
either
the
for‐profit
or
non‐profit
sector
is
not
created
in
isolation.
Businesses
 do
create
a
great
deal
of
social
value
as
well
as
economic
value.
By
creating
jobs,
paying
taxes
and
 providing
products
and
services
to
people,
they
are
intrinsically
creating
social
value.
Non‐profits
also
 create
economic
as
well
as
social
value;
in
many
countries,
NGOs
represent
a
significant
part
of
the
 national
GDP.
 The
other
problem
with
this
mindset
is
that
it
sanctions
companies
to
engage
in
social
programs
 (corporate
social
responsibility)
which
are
external
and
at
most
irrelevant
to
the
core
of
it’s
business
 model.
It
also
advocates
many
non‐profits
to
rely
on
the
‘chump
change’
in
terms
of
charity
or
grants
 from
companies.
Although
it
does
sound
charming
for
a
car
company
to
engage
an
NGO
to
raise
 awareness
on
saving
turtles,
it
doesn’t
help
it
become
‘sustainable’
in
the
long‐run.
Such
practices
 have
become
public
relations
exercises
aimed
at
creating
the
illusion
that
corporations
are
concerned
 citizens
like
the
rest
of
us.
 Over
the
past
few
years,
a
small,
but
growing
group
of
business
leaders
is
beginning
to
acknowledge
 the
need
for
traditional
business
thinking
and
practices
to
be
reformulated
to
accommodate
a
more
 sustainable
model
that
creates
and
maximizes
not
only
on
economic
value
but
also
social
and
 environmental
values
at
the
same
time.
This
new
philosophy
is
based
on
emerging
evidence
that
 business
performance
correlates
highly
with
social
and
environmental
conditions.
Like
a
plant,
it’s
 growth
will
be
stunted
if
it
isn’t
in
an
ecosystem
that
provides
access
to
supportive
elements
such
as
 sunlight,
water,
fertile
soil,
and
proper
care.
In
short,
it
has
become
profitable
to
be
sustainable.
 The
debate
whether
business
should
become
more
accountable
to
society
and
the
environment
can
 be
traced
back
to
era
of
Milton
Friedman.
He
was
a
strong
advocate
of
laissez‐faire
capitalism.
In
his
 book,
Capitalism
and
Freedom,
Friedman,
wrote,
“there
is
one
and
only
one
social
responsibility
of
 business
–
to
use
its
resources
and
engage
in
activities
designed
to
increase
its
profits…”
To
burden
 business
with
wider
goals,
he
argued,
was
“pure
and
unadulterated
socialism”.
 The
opposing
views
of
Ray
Anderson
and
Milton
Friedman
show
us
how
polarized
the
world
is.
On
 one
side
we
have
traditional
business
leaders
and
intellectuals
who
believe
that
the
current
form
of
 capitalism
is
a
social
good
by
itself
and
that
markets
should
not
be
burdened
with
responsibilities
 outside
the
core
of
business.
And
on
the
opposing
side
are
the
new
business
and
nonprofit
leaders
 and
intellectuals
who
believe
business
is
accountable
for
more
than
the
creation
of
pure
economic
 value
because
decisions
made
in
the
business
sphere
do
create
social
and
environmental
 repercussions,
and
vice
versa.


The
signs
that
we’re
living
in
a
post
Friedmanesque
world
are
fast
emerging.
You
wouldn’t
have
to
 look
far
to
see
how
radically
the
climate
is
fluctuating,
the
widening
gap
between
the
rich
and
the
 poor
in
a
period
of
tremendous
wealth,
and
the
sharply
declining
supplies
of
our
most
basic
 commodities
such
as
clean
air,
potable
water,
arable
land,
fossil
fuels,
as
well
as
vital
industrial
 commodities
such
as
aluminum,
steel
and
silicon.
If
business
doesn’t
change
its
ways
soon,
we’re
 screwed.
 In
their
book,
The
Triple
Bottom
Line,
Andrew
Savitz
and
Karl
Weber
claim
that
“…
the
truly
 sustainable
company
would
have
no
need
to
write
checks
to
charity
or
‘give
back’
to
the
local
 community,
because
the
company’s
daily
operations
wouldn’t
deprive
the
community,
but
would
 enrich
it”.
They
continue
to
add
that
“sustainable
companies
find
areas
of
mutual
interest
and
ways
 to
make
‘doing
good’
and
‘doing
well’
synonymous,
thus
avoiding
the
implied
conflict
between
society
 and
shareholders”.
In
other
words,
a
sustainable
company
is
one
that
creates
profit
for
its
 shareholders
while
protecting
the
environment
and
improving
the
lives
of
those
with
whom
it
 interacts.
 Companies
should
think
of
sustainability
as
more
of
an
opportunity
than
a
challenge
that
drives
them
 away
from
their
core.
Opportunity
in
this
sense
can
present
itself
in
many
ways
such
as,
an
entry
into
 new
markets
through
the
development
of
new
products
and
services,
reduced
energy
costs,
 improved
customer
relationships
and
a
happier
workforce.
Ultimately,
companies
that
embrace
 sustainability
can
actually
help
drive
innovation
and
boost
profits.
 Traditionally,
carpet
tile
manufacturers
like
Interface
are
responsible
for
using
immense
amounts
of
 energy
and
creating
lots
of
waste
during
its
production
processes.
It’s
more
distressing
to
know
that
 once
the
carpets
have
worn
out,
they’re
simply
discarded
into
landfills
and
remain
there
for
 thousands
of
years.
Today,
under
the
leadership
of
Ray
Anderson,
Interface
intends
to
become
one
of
 the
most
sustainable
companies
by
2020.
 The
company
is
experimenting
with
a
new
business
model
where,
instead
of
selling
carpets
to
its
 customers,
it
has
begun
leasing
floor‐covering
services
to
them.
At
a
small
monthly
fee,
Interface
will
 maintain
and
replace
the
carpets
whenever
necessary.
This
has
helped
reduce
overall
manufacturing,
 energy
usage
and
waste
created.
It
has
also
helped
create
more
jobs
that
cater
to
the
maintenance
of
 the
carpets.
Additionally,
the
company’s
customers
are
happy
that
a
once
capital
investment
can
now
 be
treated
as
a
lease
expense.
All
in
all,
Interface
has
been
able
to
strengthen
its
relationships
with
its
 customers.
 Addressing
climate
change
presents
a
huge
opportunity
for
many
existing
and
emerging
companies.
 In
2005
General
Electric
(GE)
launched
a
new
initiative
called
Ecomagination
which
aims
to
develop
 clean
technology
to
help
its
customers
reduce
their
environmental
impact.
Suzlon
Energy,
a
new
kid
 on
the
block,
is
reported
to
be
one
of
the
world’s
top
players
in
alternative
energy,
with
a
global
 market
share
of
six
percent.
Located
in
India
and
headed
by
Tulsi
Tanti,
this
eight
billion
dollar
 venture
not
only
manufactures
wind
turbines
for
global
demand,
but
also
develops
and
manages
 wind
farms.
Tanti
first
became
interested
in
wind‐power
when
he
was
trying
to
look
for
ways
to
lower
 energy
costs
of
his
original
business,
a
textile
mill.
 The
shift
towards
sustainability
as
an
opportunity
is
undoubtedly
emerging
in
Thailand
too.
A
local
 silk‐fabric
manufacturing
plant,
Green
Ville
Trading,
is
clearly
reaping
the
benefits
of
using
cleaner
 manufacturing
technology
and
alternative
energy
sources.
Led
by
Pilan
Dhammonkol,
the
plant
has
 developed
an
innovative
fabric
dying
technique
that
uses
fewer
environmentally
dangerous
chemicals
 and
is
less
energy
intensive.
This
new
technique
has
cut
the
production
process
from
previously
four
 hours
to
just
three
minutes
and
has
reduced
the
plant’s
energy
consumption
by
about
eighty
percent.
 Recently,
the
plant
received
the
EU
Flower
environmental
certification,
making
it
the
world’s
first
silk‐ fabric
maker
that
is
able
to
fulfill
the
European
Union’s
environmental
preservation
standards.
 Opportunity
is
not
just
limited
to
the
realm
of
energy
and
climate
change.
Thailand‐based
Swift
 addresses
both
health
foods
and
poverty
reduction
at
the
same
time.
Located
in
Kampaengsen,
it
is
 one
of
the
country’s
leading
suppliers
of
organic
fruits
and
vegetables.
The
company’s
most
popular
 produce
include
organic
asparagus,
corn,
mango
and
mangosteen,
which
it
exports
mainly
to
markets


in
Japan
and
Europe.
With
sales
of
up
to
one
billion
baht
annually,
Swift
contracts
more
than
ten
 thousand
family
farms
in
the
region
while
helping
the
farmers
attain
fairer
prices
for
their
produce
 and
meet
the
food
safety
standards
set
by
the
countries
it
supplies
to.
 Even
the
way
we
design
and
manufacture
products
is
subtly
changing.
In
today’s
industrial
model,
 almost
all
of
the
products
we
manufacture
are
simply
discarded
in
landfills
once
they
are
of
no
value
 to
us.
This
‘cradle
to
grave’
model
is
clearly
wasteful
and
unsustainable.
The
‘cradle
to
cradle’
design
 concept,
developed
and
popularized
by
Michael
Braungart
and
William
McDonough,
calls
for
the
 creation
of
sustainable
products
through
the
adoption
of
ecologically
friendly
design.
The
idea
is
 simply
to
create
products
in
a
waste‐free
manufacturing
process,
using
only
reusable,
biodegradable,
 or
consumable
materials.
 These
are
interesting
times
to
be
living
in.
We’re
witnessing
the
slow
collapse
of
the
old
structures
of
 business
and
economics
and
the
inevitable
transformation
to
a
more
sustainable
form
of
capitalism.
It
 cannot
be
highlighted
enough
that
the
adoption
of
sustainability
holds
more
opportunities
than
 challenges
ahead.
So
the
question
remains,
how
do
we
move
forward
from
here?
 If
you’re
looking
for
a
one‐size‐fits‐all
solution
for
business
to
become
more
sustainable,
there
just
 isn’t
one,
at
least
as
of
yet.
Instead,
a
good
starting
point
for
companies
to
get
onto
the
path
towards
 sustainability,
is
to
measure
their
performance
not
just
in
terms
of
the
traditional
financial
bottom
 line,
but
also
by
their
impact
on
the
environment
and
the
community
in
which
they
operate.
The
 triple
bottom
line
approach,
originally
proposed
by
John
Elkington,
is
meant
to
help
companies
 measure,
document
and
report
on
all
three
of
its
bottom
lines
‐
economic,
social
and
environmental.
 In
fact,
companies
that
measure
their
performance
on
the
sustainability
yardstick
would
be
able
to
 unlock
more
opportunities.
They
can
develop
tailor‐made
strategies
and
solutions
that
can
open
up
 further
opportunities
beyond
economic
values,
a
more
holistic
approach
that
can
include
the
social
 and
environmental
components
as
well.
It
is
hoped
that
in
the
new
model
capitalism,
companies
that
 aim
to
do
well
financially,
would
only
be
able
to
do
so
by
taking
into
account
how
its
business
affects
 the
community
and
environment
too.
The
day
may
soon
arrive
when
a
company
can
claim
to
be
 profitable
only
when
it
reports
positive
returns
on
all
three
of
its
bottom
lines.
 S.
Dev
Appanah
manages
an
investment
fund
for
early
stage
social
enterprises
in
South
&
East
Asia.
 Visit
his
blog
at
www.deviantsadvantage.com

 This
article
was
first
published
in
the
Bangkok
Post,
4
Nov
2007.