Creativity in thinking green

I started this year with a post on thinking green. Now that we are approaching end of 2008, I thought it would be good to revisit this topic and see how companies around the World have increased profitability by applying creativity that also made them more eco-friendly. Thinking green over the last year went from a differentiating factor to a necessary checkbox feature for every business. Thanks to the general awareness created around the issue, businesses irrespective of the industry are going an extra mile, trying to get a shade of green and then letting the customers know that they are greener than before.

There are some fascinating examples of how creativity in being eco-friendly has spurned innovation in everything, from how to better recycle waste to how to conserve energy. GE lead the way with their Ecomagination initiative. Through one of several innovations under this initiative, GE designed diesel engines for cars as well as trains to cut fuel consumption and reduced emission.

Retail powerhouses including Walmart, Costco and Whole Foods, among others, played their roles in greening up. Walmart, which operates the second largest truck fleet in the country provided funding to truck companies to develop heavy-duty diesel hybrid 18-wheelers. Costco installed sun-panels in its store to generate electricity and provided flexible schedules for its employees to work longer hours four days a week and save gas on commute. Whole Foods replaced plastic containers and utensils at its hot bars with the ones made by sugar-cane waste.

In technology industry, EPA launched a EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) that provides certification to computers based on several criteria to measure the computers greenness. Major computer makers like Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo stepped up to voluntarily submit their products for review. Dell is leading the way in being greener by initiatives like launching an Eco PC and recovering about 40,000 tons of unwanted equipments for recycling.

These are just few of thousands of initiatives leading to sustainability. The efforts we are seeing in businesses finding ways to be eco-friendly touches on a much bigger issue. A few leaders stood to raise this issue as an important one, created awareness and motivated customers to think about it as an important feature while making a buying decision. This pushed companies to compete and find ways to be more creative and attract customers towards their product. The entire sequence of events sets a classic example of how something starts, finds a few early adopters and then if it reaches the tipping point, we see a surge in development in that area, just like we are seeing in the think green world.

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