Read this section to gain an understanding of the environmental impacts of businesses and the importance of sustainability.
Did you ever read (or have read to you) The Lorax, a well-known children's book, written by Dr. Seuss in 1971? The Lorax was written by Dr. Seuss. It was first published in 1971 by Random House, New York. The copyright was renewed in 1999. It tells the story of how a business owners' greed destroyed an ecosystem. To manufacture and sell a product that the owner argued everyone needed, he cut down the trees in the forest, polluted the river, and fouled the air. These actions destroyed the habitat for the bears that lived on the fruit that fell from the trees, the fish that swam in the streams and the birds that flew high up in the sky. In 1971, these actions were not viewed negatively; business owners believed that the purpose of business was to make a profit without regard for the effect on the environment.
This book was written for young people, but it sends an important message to today's business executives. When it was written in 1971, few business people listened to its message. But, they seem to be listening now. Over the past ten to fifteen years, most of our large corporations have adopted measures that would have pleased environmentalists. These initiatives fall under the umbrella called "sustainability". But what does sustainability mean? There are, of course, many definitions, but here is one that should work for us: sustainability – the principle of providing products today that don't compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Companies that undertake sustainability initiatives believe that meeting business needs and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. They must do both.
How would you like a job in the sustainability field? Well twenty-six-year-old Robyn Beavers has one. As Google's Chief Sustainability Officer she runs the company's "Green Biz Ops" [Green Business Operations] and is responsible for reducing Google's impact on the environment. The 9,200 solar panels that were recently installed at the company's corporate headquarters (the world's biggest solar power system) will certainly reduce the company's use of electricity supplied from fossil fuels. When she's not finding ways to reduce Google's footprint on the world, she keeps busy making sure Google's offices are green – energy efficient, built with cradle-to-cradle products, and healthy. She gets to pick out carpeting that can be returned to the manufacturer when it's worn out so it can be ground up and used to make other rugs, rather than sit in a landfill decaying. She OKs window shades and other textiles used in the cubicles only after she is assured they are toxin-free. And she makes sure there is plenty of filtered water for everyone and 90 percent fresh air coming into the building during the day. Although she has a lot of leeway in making decisions, each project has to be reviewed to be sure it adds value and makes financial sense.
Google, like many other companies who are proactive in environmental and social responsibility issues often have a "triple bottom line" focus. They believe that the current reporting model of one bottom line – profit – does not capture all the dimensions of performance. They argue instead that companies should measure performance using three separate bottom lines: profit, people, and planet (or the 3Ps). In addition to reporting profit through their income statement, companies should also report their progress in being socially responsible to other people (stakeholders, including employee, customers, owners) and to the planet (the environment). Triple bottom line: It consists of three Ps: profit, people, and planet.