Environment, business not always in conflict

MY VIEW • Companies need to lead the green movement by example
by: Lars Baron, A My View writer argues that business and environmental goals don’t have to be at odds. Efficient use of water, for example, benefits both a company’s bottom line and the Earth.

Business success and environmental concerns are always at odds. What is good for the environment is bad for business. What is good for business is bad for the environment. In public debate after debate, we hear that taking the necessary steps to protect the environment devastates the bottom line.

At least those are the prevailing arguments.

Surveys bear this out. An Associated Press/Stanford University poll found that 65 percent of Americans felt that U.S. businesses harmed the environment at least 'moderately.' Some 44 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way businesses handled issues involving the environment. Only 7 percent said business helped the environment 'a lot' or 'greatly.' Sixty-two percent characterized this support as little to none.

It is time these perceptions change. Doing right by the environment can be a sound economic strategy. Every executive I know wants to reduce energy and water usage costs so those dollars can be used to grow the business. From a personal perspective, people who run companies want to live and work in clean, safe communities.

Local businesses recognize they are the economic engine that provides our employment base. They have a vested interest in environmental stewardship because they want to attract talented workers. They can only accomplish this if they do their part for the environment where they work and live.

Every company needs to become more efficient in its use of water and energy. It makes business sense: cut these operating costs and invest those dollars in new opportunities to increase competitiveness. Executives have long recognized this. But only recently have they heavily promoted the variety of 'green' benefits of their production processes and products.

In undertaking such promotion, more companies and industries need to lead by example: To serve as models for best environmental practices that the public can adopt.

For example, in the textile rental industry, because we do so much laundry for so many businesses, we provide huge economies of scale in the use of water, electricity and detergent.

We use very large washers and fill them with as much laundry as possible. It is a big job to match fabrics, colors, types of goods, etc. But we do it, because it's efficient.

In your home, do you do the same? If you don't have enough compatible clothing items to fill your machine, you might set it to handle a smaller load. That will economize on water, but not very well. According to Waterwise, the U.K. conservation nonprofit, some half-loads use almost as much water as a full load. And two half-loads will use more water and energy than a full one. The EPA estimates that washing full loads saves a family of four more than 3,400 gallons of water each year.

You may have invested in a new machine that has outstanding water optimization capability. If not, I hope you regularly postpone household laundry until you have full loads. As I have seen in my business and as many consumers have learned, 'going green' does not come easy. But in the long run, it saves the planet and your money.

Mark Rawlinson is president of New System Laundry LLC.He lives in Southwest Portland.