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Sustainability benefits business

Graphics | January 1, 2009 | By:

When considering whether or not sustainability is a good business decision, you may ask: What does it mean to be sustainable? In an effort to answer that question, additional questions may arise.

What is the difference between sustainable and green? What is a sustainable business? Is it just about a product? What about the process used in producing products? Does sustainability impact building operations such as heating and cooling? What about the water used in the the facility? Where does the electricity come from?

Merriam-Webster defines sustainability as: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.

Using a resource so that it is not depleted or permanently damaged sounds like a wise business decision. In fact, wise use of resources is a key to business success. So what does sustainable mean to a business—to your business?

This decision can have a direct impact on your business in several ways. First, by streamlining processes you can actually save costs and increase profits. Right now many of the green products are more expensive; however, money can be saved by refining processes and often eliminating or selling waste products.

Second, while sustainability may seem like a fad, the trend is growing among consumers. By getting involved you will be able to satisfy your customers’ demands. Many large corporations are taking solid positions on this issue that, in turn, affect their buying decisions. You will be positioned to offer what they want.

A third impact is on innovation. As more products are demanded, more will need to be created, allowing for new product and process innovation that will give you a competitive advantage.

Finally, there is the obvious marketing opportunity available by being a sustainable supplier. This is just another way to differentiate your company.

Everyone is responsible for the earth’s resources, and good management for future generations is definitely a good decision for any business. If these opportunities are important to your business, then by all means start on the path to sustainability. Sustainability is not necessarily an end point, but a journey. Begin with small steps and grow as you learn.

Tony Schmitt is product development manager for Optima Graphics, Fenton, Mo., and is the chair of the Fabric Graphics Association, a division of IFAI.

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