Opinion

Becoming a sustainable business

I dislike using the “S” word as it has been overused to a point of irrelevance; however I have found a new respect and understanding of sustainability — especially as it relates to business.

Since becoming the Host for the LiveSmart BC Business Energy Advisor Program I have been impressed with the value proposition related to businesses decreasing their energy footprint.

At the Parksville Visitor Centre we have changed out our halogen lights and display lighting for LEDs, put motion sensors in all areas where lights are typically left on when not needed (public washrooms) and replaced outdated energy hogging fluorescents with brighter, energy efficient fluorescents.

I did not take on this work to save the planet; I took it on to save money and to set an example for other businesses. Will our actions contribute to saving the planet — sure they will — and if others follow suit which they are, the impact will be that much greater.

The other by-product of my dangerously minimal education in energy efficiency is an interest in “Sustainable Business Practices.”

At the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce September general meeting, our speaker, Marten Martins spoke on that topic. The emphasis was on the adoption of John Elkington’s “Triple Bottom Line” philosophy.

His assertion is that when a business is aware of their Social and Environmental impact then their financial bottom line will reflect that awareness.

I have always subscribed to the political policy that social and environmental programs are good, but that we as a society cannot afford to pay for them without financial success.

It is through a successful business environment that tax dollars are raised to support the other two components of the sustainability matrix.

In his closing, Dr. Martin Martens proposed a challenge to the Oceanside Business Community to become “The Business Sustainability Capital.”

I believe this is a challenge we should and can take on. Vancouver Island University will supply students to conduct business sustainability assessments at no charge.

This community has already responded heavily to lowering their energy footprint and there is a growing realization that being socially and environmentally responsible in business practices will improve a business’s profitability.

There are a lot of potential wins here, including the profile of being the business sustainability capital.

In writing this, I hope that the various groups who promote unsustainable environmental or social action will also come to understand that sustainability requires a balance of all three elements.

It takes a healthy economy to truly support social and environmental programs and neglecting any of these three legs of a three legged stool will result in an unhealthy imbalance.

 

If you would like a Sustainable Business Assessment please contact me at 250-248-3613 or by email kim@parksvillechamber.com.

 

 

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