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Sustainability Makes Business Sense

I have worked on environmental communications and corporate social responsibility since I was green graduate of Michigan State University in the 1990s.

I started my career at Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, writing about and promoting my clients’ recycling systems and environmentally friendly products. After Edelman, I moved on to Ford Motor Company, where I worked for more than 10 years. At that point, a theme emerged in my career: environmental communications.

Most followers of the automotive industry know that William Clay "Bill" Ford, Jr. is an environmentalist. One of his values is creating a “better world,” a value that he instilled in the company. Ford talks the talk and walks the walk, and among other environmental initiatives, I helped to introduce the world's first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape.

While at Ford, and later at Navistar, I introduced dozens of new, more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions. I also helped Ford introduce the largest living roof in the U.S., at Ford’s famous Rouge manufacturing complex.

Since the early 2000s, Ford has been a leader in sustainability, a term that often is misunderstood. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment.

The theory is that sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony. Responsible environmental stewardship enables fulfilling the social and economic needs of present and future generations.

The easiest way to understand sustainability is to think of a lumber company. Those that practice sustainability plant two trees for every one tree they cut down, helping to ensure future generations will have trees, and therefore lumber to building housing.

If you have a "strong business," you can stay in business and create a "better world." That is a core concept of sustainability, and that is a core concept of Ford's corporate strategy.

According to Plunkett Research, "green tech" is projected to be a $5.7 trillion market in annual revenues by 2025. That's up from approximately $3.4 trillion in 2014. Currently, that represents about 5 percent of global GDP. Various reports estimate that there are more than 1,400 clean tech-focused companies worldwide with venture capital backing.

Being green makes business sense. It leads to a green bottom line, serves customers' regulatory needs, and improves your company's reputation. It's a win-win-win!

By Joe Koenig

Make Ideas Reality Communications

Koenig is the president of Make Ideas Reality, a public relations firm based in Oak Park, Ill.

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