Business brought down to earth
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At the beginning of 2000, "green" was synonymous with the color of foliage, frogs and money. At the beginning of 2010, it is shorthand for a paradigm that applies to everything from building construction to business practices.
The idea behind this new use of green, that of doing things in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly ways, is far from new. But it gained new prominence in the last decade, especially after the release of the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," in which former Vice President Al Gore issued a warning about global warming that millions found compelling.
Along with a widespread heightened concern for the environment, corporate America began to discover the business case for going green, in energy savings, improved productivity and image enhancement.
Downtown Pittsburgh offers two fresh examples. Health insurer Highmark has installed a "green roof" on its Fifth Avenue Place office building, with 180 tons of soil and 25,000 plants on top of a waterproof membrane, that is expected to reduce the building's energy use by 12 percent.
A stone's throw away stands Three PNC Center, Pittsburgh's newest skyscraper and one of the world's largest green buildings, as certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. PNC Financial Services Group led its industry in building green with its Firstside Center, which opened in 2000; its new flagship gives the company bookends on a decade of change.
Accounting consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu says the green movement in business will only continue to grow. Last year the firm developed a framework for benchmarking an organization's efforts to go green, not just in such ways as recycling, but across the entire enterprise. For instance, within the supply chain, the framework calls for fleet optimization and waste management; in products and sales, it encourages paperless billing and green pricing and incentives for customers.
What gets measured gets managed, the saying goes. In the new decade, we can expect to see more efforts by more companies to not simply declare themselves green, but to measurably enhance their greenness, and to market those quantified improvements.
First Published January 3, 2010 12:00 am