How 'Going Green' Became Sustainable
Read the full Spring 2012 issue.
Some years ago we created the CSC GreenWay program to address our environmental concerns and challenges. At the time, “green” was a hot buzzword for the environmental movement: Everyone was “Going Green.” But what does that mean today? All things environmental are still of paramount importance, but for business, the term has matured into one of sustainability.
To some, green is a polarizing word, bringing to mind all of the political issues associated with the global warming debate. To others, green means anything to do with the sustainability of our planet, which extends to the sustainability of our business and the communities in which we conduct our business.
I believe green has evolved into sustainability, and this encompasses a much broader world of things on which we can have an impact. Sustainability comprises environmental, social and governance issues, and those three areas cover our effect on the environment, our social and employee obligations, and our transparency as we conduct our business.
Michael Johnson, who studies organizational behavior at the University of Washington, has found that improving employee morale or employee engagement can also improve a company’s bottom line. He says, “A lot of the current research on employee morale and managing people in general in organizations suggests that this may be the only remaining competitive advantage that organizations have. Organizations that do this well tend to do really well financially, too.” Paying attention to employee engagement is part of sustainability.
If CSC were a chemical company, we would be well aware of our impact on the environment. However, it is harder for service companies to connect the dots, even though our employees around the world are consuming resources such as energy, water and paper, and contributing to carbon emissions.
Maturing into sustainability does not mean we have abandoned green or anything that concerns our environment. On the contrary, it means we have evolved into a business community more aware of our multifaceted impact on our world and the demands of transparency that go beyond environmental activism. Companies are now working hard on their sustainability and the sustainability of their customers because it is essential to their business growth.
In addition, sustainability is becoming very relevant to federal government acquisitions. Both civilian agency and U.S. Department of Defense acquisition staffs are asking questions about the sustainability of services and solutions in their purchasing processes. These services are not considered sustainable if they do not balance resource availability and environmental impact with cost and return on investment.
At CSC, while being concerned about our sustainability, we are also responding to our stakeholders, who are demanding that we pay attention to sustainability in its widest aspects. We have to be able to answer their questions and respond to their requests that we participate in these world issues or they will take their business elsewhere. But mention the word “green” and you can completely shut your management team down. It is a term that can turn the average businessperson off, because of the activism and political imagery. Suddenly you have lost your audience, and they just don’t “get it.” But start talking about the sustainability of your business and that of your clients, and they are right there with you, cheering you on, because they can see the connection between sustainability, business continuity and growth.
SUSAN PULLIN is vice president of corporate responsibility for CSC.