But it’s not just consumers who are giving small businesses an incentive to ramp up sustainability efforts. Increasingly, large companies view their suppliers as extensions of themselves and expect them to share their environmental convictions. Take NRG Energy Inc., a Princeton, New Jersey-based wholesale power generation company. It has demonstrated a commitment to the environment through measures ranging from double-sided printing (to save paper), to major investments in clean generating facilities and technologies, and it seeks suppliers with similar corporate values.
“More and more global companies are seeing that the path they’re on is not sustainable,” says Lynton Scotland, formerly NRG’s vice president of operational excellence. “Developing a culture of conservation is important, because if we do it worldwide it can have an impact. At NRG, we work with our suppliers and choose companies that align with our values.” Scotland is now vice president of energy services at Presidential Star, a Virginia-based construction, green energy, and solar installation company.
Indeed, the State of Green Business 2010 report published by GreenBiz.com, a Website that offers news, opinion, best practices, and other resources, highlights increased corporate investment in 2009, despite the recession, in both green product development and environment, health, and safety. Moreover, the report documents the efforts of several major players to get their supply chains in line. For example, global retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. started a Sustainability Consortium and charged it with the mission of setting sustainability standards for thousands of its products. And prominent food companies, some under attack by activists and consumers, are now pressuring their suppliers—growers, producers, wholesalers, processors, and marketers—to improve environmental performance as well.
“I’ve been witnessing this exciting paradigm shift,” says MaryAnne Howland, president and CEO of Ibis Communications, an eco-conscious marketing communications firm in Nashville, Tennessee. “Today’s most forward-thinking companies incorporate
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