The New Wave: Sustainability

Balzac's CoffeeAfter moving into an apartment near Toronto’s trendy Distillery District in late 2012, I walked over to the old Gooderham and Worts facility, a Canadian historic site now alive with boutiques and restaurants. In need of ground coffee at home, I proceeded to Balzac’s coffee, a small Toronto-area roaster with a growing reputation.

Endless exposed brick, trendy people sipping, fussing over their smart phones and talking, it was hard not to like the place. But what really caught my attention that day was the coffee bag the young woman handed me over the counter. Not a bag made of foil or some great round tin, but a nice-to-the-touch, solid, brown bag. On one side of the bag it read: “The bag is lined with PLA, a 100 percent compostible corn-based product.”

Immediately I felt a connection with this company; this was the kind of operation that deserves my business. Why? They are making an effort to live sustainably in an unstable, resource-constrained world.

We are in a new era where waste is out, sustainability is in, concepts increasingly embraced by a wide swath of the population. Operating responsibly is not only the right moral choice for businesses, it is also the only choice if they want to grow a business in a community keenly aware of the need for better, healthier business models. Folks are not waiting for governments to tell business to clean up their act, they are voting with their wallets.

Some companies, big and small, are still ignoring this larger than life fact. But it will be to their peril. Companies that also try to fake it — oil companies to the fore! — will also pay.

But here is the coolest thing: Sustainability can lead to more sales, drive innovation and even push costs down.

Despite some still loud naysayers, global warming is upon us. From Hurricane Sandy in the United States, to melting polar ice caps, and to severe droughts all over the globe, people are worried things have gone terribly wrong and that it’s time to do something about it.

For too long, going green was seen as the preserve of the granola and Birkenstock’s set. Going green meant losing money. Not anymore. For business, this is a time of great responsibility and opportunity.

“Sustainability isn’t the burden on bottom lines that many executives believe it to be,” according to a recent paper by the Harvard Business Review. “In fact, becoming environment-friendly can lower your costs and increase your revenues. That’s why sustainability should be a touchstone for all innovation.”

Arising from the ashes of the Great Recession of 2008 is a whole new paradigm for investing and profiting from sustainability, according to Australia’s James Bradley Moore. In the book, “The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a Resource Limited World,” co-author Moore argues persuasively that the world is marking a new and startling epoch that will rival the dot com era.

“Put simply, is is a revolution that will see our world transformed from one heavily addicted to the consumption of resources, to a world in which resource efficiency is the name of the game,” according to Moore and Bianca Nogrady.

Put simply, this is a wave we all need to ride.






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