Friday, April 20, 2007

The Beginning of a CSO

Chief Sustainability Officer? Really? That's a bold statement. It may seem that way, but in 10-20 years it might seem like someone stating the obvious. I've been bouncing the idea of creating a position within my company that is focused on sustainability/CSR/ESG (there's one of our challenges, calling it something managers' will understand) off of various people in "the know". The reception has been good, as one would expect since the professionals I am talking to share my interest in green business (whoops! there's another term for it).

I just returned from the latest Netimpact Boston Professional Chapter social at John Harvard's in Harvard Sq. The place was packed. not only was it Thursday, in general a night to go out for the youngsters, but there was a Harvard specific event going on. I found myself cradling a pint like I was navigating a fraternity party back in college just to have a conversation. I am too old for that.

In any case, there were good conversations to have, with folks ranging from soon to be MBA graduates from Babson, Marketing VPs, and Fair Trade banana sellers to web search engine consultants. I managed to reconnect with someone that volunteered with AltWheels back when I was an organizer. One thing I enjoy about these events is the potential to meet new people in completely different businesses that share the same interest in improving the society and environment we share. We may not have all the answers, but we're trying, and it is reassuring to know some people think about it.

A conversation with a member of a small business in the medical device industry made me think about the decisions businesses make. Small companies sometimes feel compelled to make either-or decisions when it comes to environmental sustainability. Either they take $15k and invest it in marketing to grow their business or they use it for a raw material that is non-polluting. I am over-simplifying here. The best outcome, and the one we are all working for, is the one in which the choice to pay more for an environmentally benign material is moot; all the materials are benign, and economically priced.

Of course, after reading about the interview with Tod Murphy of the Farmer's Diner in the latest issue of Orion Magazine (the article is not online yet), I wonder if we can save capitalism from ourselves?

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