In Episode 55 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 24, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Gil Friend to the show. Gil is Founder, President and CEO of Natural Logic, a company that provides strategic advice to support the sustainable economy. He’s been consulting in this area for more than 40 years and has some great perspectives on the past, present and future of sustainability in business. His company serves a wide variety of organizations ranging from municipalities to some of the best known consumer brands in the world (Levi Strauss and CocaCola, to name two). He was recently inducted as a founding member of the Sustainability Hall of Fame by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals. This is a guy with, as they say, gravitas in the industry.
Gil Friend of Natural Logic visits The Wendel Forum studio
Gil points out that, classically, people have defined sustainability as development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – or to put it more succinctly, by doing less bad.
He prefers to take a more positive approach. In his view, a sustainable business is a business that operates in harmony with the laws of nature – a little more inspiring.
When asked what major trends he’s seen, Gil shares that he believes there has been a major sea change in the last five years, with a large number of mainstream businesses considering the environment as a part of their core business operations. Most of us are familiar with at least some of the ways in which Walmart has led the pack in this area. When they started, a few years ago, they set goals without knowing exactly what the metrics would be or how they would meet them. But they didn’t let that stop them, and as a result they have had a big impact on a large sector of the economy.
Gil believes that sustainability has moved from the periphery of business operations to become a central driver of business value for many companies. Early efforts tended to focus on energy, waste stream, water usage and similar factors. What’s the latest? Carbon emissions. Companies are developing metrics for things like carbon emissions per dollar of revenue as a way to think about investment strategies. One resource in this area is the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Common sustainable business themes include companies looking more closely at the full length of the supply chain and adding transparency. Consumers want to know the materials that make up the products they buy, as well as the labor practices employed and environmental impact of their production.
What’s in Gil’s crystal ball for green business? He sees more companies taking sustainability further and more deeply into their operations. Companies are asking more systemic questions – embedding sustainability deeper into their DNA and developing better processes along the way.
For more of Gil’s insights, you might want to check out his book, The Truth About Green Business. It gives business leaders a framework, as well as practical nuts-and-bolts ideas, in easily digestible pieces.