Change Can Open Door for Business

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), February 5, 2006 | Go to article overview

Change Can Open Door for Business


Byline: Rusty Rexius and David Funk For The Register-Guard

A buzz is growing throughout Eugene. Mayor Kitty Piercy's timely Sustainable Business Initiative has more than 300 business, civic and government leaders already involved, and calls come in daily as others ask how they can participate. The Register-Guard has mentioned the initiative in several recent stories.

The Sustainable Business Initiative is a broad-based effort to identify and establish policies and programs to retain, expand and create businesses and jobs that use sustainable practices, and/or produce sustainable products and services. The 16-person task force that we co-chair has spent the past six months gathering recommendations from the community on how to achieve those goals. This fall, the task force will present a suite of recommendations to the Eugene City Council outlining how the city and other public and private organizations can engage in this important work.

By definition, to "sustain" something means maintaining it over time. Everyone knows, however, that circumstances change; nothing can be maintained in the same form forever. As a practical matter, therefore, sustainability involves the capacity to successfully adapt to changing conditions. History has shown that businesses and communities that assess future trends and act early are better prepared to adapt to change. In doing so, they can often leapfrog over competitors and capture a competitive advantage. Those that fail to keep their sights on the future usually suffer.

The Sustainable Business Initiative grew out of the mayor's awareness that increasing pressures such as climate change, rising energy prices, concerns about the stability of oil supplies, peak oil, growing international competition and others factors are placing constraints on certain types of products and services while opening the door to others. Because the jobs and income generated by local businesses are essential to our community's well-being, the mayor felt it was vital to help business and civic leaders prepare for and take advantage of the opportunities these emerging changes offer.

The forces described above are creating opportunity for business practices, products and services that do generate a profit while also protecting and enhancing social and environmental well-being. These three items are called the `triple bottom line.' Helping local business and civic organizations achieve a sustainable, triple bottom line is the core mission of the Sustainable Business Initiative.

Any business can employ sustainable practices. The good news is that it has been shown again and again that these initiatives can reduce operating costs, increase productivity, improve employee morale, attract top employees, reduce turnover, enhance community support, diminish risks of legal challenges, increase customer loyalty, and lead to profitable new products and services.

Examples of sustainable practices include:

Using renewable energy such as biofuels, solar energy and wind that reduce the use of fossil fuels and the production of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

Third-party certified forestry, fishing, organic and natural farming and food processing, and other resource management methods.

Lean manufacturing and other methods that reduce demand for raw materials, energy, water and packaging, and which result in less waste.

Employing natural, nontoxic, biodegradable raw materials in products and processes.

Reuse and recycling programs aimed at eliminating waste sent to landfills and incinerators.

Careful management of supply chains to eliminate wasted energy and materials, and to enhance closed-loop reuse and recycling.

Employing green building practices in design, construction, remodeling, landscaping and maintenance.

For example, Rexius, the company started more than 70 years ago to make use of wood waste, has converted its fleet from fossil fuels to to biodiesel, a form of fuel derived from organic waste materials. …

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