Blue business washes in

November 11, 2009
Adam Werbach poses at the University Club of Toronto, November 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jillian Kitchener

Adam Werbach poses at the University Club of Toronto, November 11, 2009. REUTERS/Jillian Kitchener

Green is good and blue is better.

Keeping a business sustainable – or blue – goes beyond philanthropic nods to the environment. It needs to be a core business goal, says Adam Werbach, creator of Wal-Mart’s sustainability program and chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi S, the sustainability wing of the marketing and consultancy company.

Blue innovation embraces the social, cultural, and economic aspects of business along with green issues like protecting our last wild places and reducing carbon emissions.

“Sustainability is about long-term profitability. It doesn’t mean just the environment,” Werbach told a room of 100 business professionals in Toronto on Wednesday, pointing to the four-part breakdown of sustainability built on social, economic, cultural and environmental trends in addition to an integral value of transparency.

“The idea is to think a little bit broader. Of course we need to protect the environment, but there are so many other things to connect to it,” Werbach said, exploring a theme in his new book Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto.

“This is an extraordinary business opportunity that’s been left to the environmentalists and we need to steal it back and make it the business opportunity to grow companies that are going to be the companies of the future.”

Victoria Kamsler, chief ethics officer and research director at Greenfiniti Consulting and Investment in Toronto and former professor of environmental ethics at Princeton University, said Werbach was on to something with his ideas about internal changes in business culture having to do with transparency and engagement, and motivating employees to engage in purposes that align with their own values and ideals larger than themselves.

“All across the board major corporations are implementing “North Star” goals and changing the course of business and we find that this goes straight to the bottom line. Not only will they keep their employees happier but they get better work and it’s actually a really effective way to help their bottom line.”

Part of Werbach’s strategy with Wal-Mart was to invite personal sustainability projects (PSPs) from staff members. One of the outcomes of that program now saves the company $1 million in expenses yearly by replacing soda pop machine backlights with LEDs.

But the real challenge is to motivate people to consume less, says Robert Logan, chief scientist of the Strategic Innovation lab at the Ontario College of Art & Design.

“The soda pop machines with LEDS is nonsense. We should get rid of the whole damn machine and just have a water dispenser.”

It’s a movement that needs to involve all levels of a corporation, Werbach told the audience at the Corporate Catalyst event.

What do you think? Is it a company’s responsibility to respond to demand for more sustainable renewable practices and products? Should we do away with soda refrigerators altogether in the office?


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I believe wholeheartedly in “Blue”. Companies don’t need to respond to market demands, if they don’t mind becoming obsolete. Consumers have the power to drive this Industrial Revolution if businesses choose not to lead. As for banning soda machines, Sustainability is about improvement, and every little bit helps!

Posted by Erik | Report as abusive

I say welcome to the twenty first century. I started a business 17 years ago with the “blue goals” in mind. Our first goal was to turn a profit on every project we did. Our second goal, being a consulting engineering firm, was to use resources wisely. It has worked very well over the years and we did not have to drive our competitors out, didn’t have to make claims we couldn’t prove, and we expected profits and achieved them. Greed was never considered and we have customers that have stayed with us for the whole time. Nuf Said

Posted by f belz | Report as abusive

I believe I read somewhere that consumers were outraged to find out wal-mart actually has soda refrigerators. But now that the backlights have been replaced, it has held off the public boycott. Customers of wal-mart should begin to see an estimated .000000002345678910111213% difference in global temperatures by 2069. And a .00000777777775656565656566565656646464% price decrease because they feel they should pass the savings onto the consumers. I feel that with such ground breaking ideas as this one, we are on the road to a better more blueish green tomorrow!

Posted by jason | Report as abusive