By Ryan Duffy, Communications Fellow
The following is an excerpt taken from Green Think: How Profit Can Save the World, written by USGBC's co-founder and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi:
But a new narrative is emerging — a new way of thinking, even — that is deeply rooted in reality, not distorted by history. While the old narrative claims that the environment is the enemy of growth, the new narrative holds that the environment and the economy are deeply, fundamentally connected.
They share common enemies: waste, inefficiency, pollution, climate change, resource scarcity and environmental degradation. They also share a common ally: sustainability. And instead of intractable, insulated groupthink, they share a common outlook: greenthink. Greenthink occurs when businesses, nonprofits, governments and individuals marry environmental and economic principles for the benefits they can receive from both.
Troughout the global economy, a select number of enlightened companies are already engaged in greenthink by leveraging the power of sustainability to drive profits. These businesses aren’t using less energy and fewer resources in the name of self-denial or out of the goodness of their hearts; they’re consuming less in order to earn more.
The economic incentives are changing, and so are the business models. The result is a measurable reduction in the damage that many companies inflict on the environment and people, an increase in the quality and desirability of their products and services, and a reward in the form that business understands best: cold, hard cash.
In fact, preeminent management consulting firm McKinsey & Company says that “the choice for companies today is not if, but how they should manage their sustainability activities.”
Conventional wisdom tells us that sustainability is prohibitively expensive; that industry is, by definition, destructive; and that environmentalism and capitalism are diametrically opposed. But it’s time to toss that old way of thinking out a triple-glazed, energy-efficient window. Because even though the private sector and the environmental movement have long thought of themselves as adversaries — or, at best, as folks who just walk a different path — the truth is, they will share the same fate.
The future of the planet is at stake, and so is the future of the global economy. Environmental degradation and climate change are beginning to take an enormous economic toll that will grow by orders of magnitude in the coming years. Meanwhile, environmentally friendly business practices are creating an economic windfall for those smart enough to embrace them.
This is the new reality — and our historic opportunity. Profit-driven strategies can bring us together and help us dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, eliminate harmful pollution and build a better, greener world. In other words, profit can save the planet. Perhaps that sounds too good to be true. After all, if sustainability is so profitable that it can save the planet, why hasn’t it?
Why do we still see rampant pollution and cynical greenwashing from the vast majority of the private sector? The answer is simple: most companies aren’t yet taking stock of the environment’s impact on their bottom line. But this will change. How can I be so certain? Because I’ve watched it happen to one of the world’s largest, dirtiest industries: real estate.
In just over a decade, through the revolutionary, voluntary LEED certification program, USGBC and the private sector have channeled ingenuity, shared innovations and transformed real estate and the building trades — two of the economy’s largest sectors.
To date, LEED has certified 14 billion square feet of sustainable real estate worldwide. Another 9 billion square feet are in the development pipeline. That’s a lot of square feet. But how does this translate into dollars and cents?
Well, USGBC commissioned Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) to find out. According to BAH’s 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study, the green building sector (which includes LEED, ENERGY STAR and other green-certified construction) contributed $167.4 billion to U.S. GDP from 2011 to 2014.
By 2018, BAH projects that figure will nearly double, to $303.5 billion.
The green building movement has certainly made a lot of people a lot of money — something my reporter friend was fixated on, and rightly so. But let’s be clear: we’re not just talking about developers, manufacturers and contractors. BAH found that, in 2015, the green building sector accounted for 2.3 million jobs, putting more than $134.3 billion in the pockets of American workers.
Of course, the environmental benefits of green building are just as significant as the economic ones. According to Paul Hawken, a legendary environmentalist, “USGBC may have had a greater impact than any other single organization in the world on materials saved, toxins eliminated, greenhouse gases avoided, and human health enhanced.” Not bad for a little environmental nonprofit organization.
The success of the green building movement has taught me two things. First, there is only one force powerful enough, and capable of working quickly enough, to reverse the trends eroding the environmental security of our planet and the future of humanity: capitalism.
Second, greenthink is, simply put, the biggest and most incredible business opportunity of the 21st century. That’s why there are two messages at the heart of this book.
If you’re an environmentalist, it’s time to face up to the limitations of the environmental movement, its strategies and its methods — and it’s time to start using private-sector forces to drive change instead.
If you’re a business leader, it’s time to sustainably transform your enterprise before environmental factors transform your marketplace.
If you're interested in reading more, you can find the book here on Amazon for $12.99— as you will find out if you read the book, each book is made only after it is ordered to reduce waste and inefficiency!