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Earth Day 2021: Sustainability Is Good Business

By Miller Zell

Edelman’s 2021 “Trust Barometer” arrived at an interesting conclusion, one that would have been difficult to imagine a decade ago. Page 6 of its report is headlined, “Business Becomes Only Trusted Institution.”

It then asserts that “Business [is] more trusted than government in 18 of 27 countries.”  

A big reason? Sustainability initiatives.

The report notes that 61 percent of respondents believe addressing climate change has grown more important over the past year and that when businesses embrace sustainable practices, “The likelihood of trust is up 5.7 percent.”

Sustainability matters to consumers, so it must also matter to businesses. The good news is the need for businesses to combine operational excellence and social and environmental responsibility no longer is up for debate.

As Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever observed to McKinsey, “Any company that wants to stay relevant in the future should think about sustainable behavior.”

The first step for businesses is embracing the circular economy of reduce, reuse, refurbish, repair and recycle. There are many initiatives that can be undertaken that will make a significant difference.

  • Pursue sustainability across the entire supply chain and business operations
  • Minimize packaging and work with suppliers to reduce bulky packaging
  • Encourage reusable shopping bags
  • Donate damaged or outdated merchandise
  • Invest in recycling equipment
  • Educate staff
  • Use, purchase and promote recycled products
  • Promote buy-back programs or upcycling programs
  • Transition to digital when possible

Customers also are aware that there is sometimes a distance between what is said and what is done, and “greenwashing” — inauthentically claiming sustainable practices — will create backlash. Volkswagen’s  “Clean Diesel” would be a well-known example.

The opposite is also true: Significant efforts can foster significant public praise and great PR. Here are some examples of initiatives that earned headlines.

  • Lowe’s received kudos for its ongoing national household battery collection and recycling efforts. The home improvement retailer recovered more than 255,000 pounds of batteries in 2019 alone.
  • Target is generating enough solar power to offset the electricity use of 60 Target stores or the equivalent of 37,100 homes.
  • Nordstrom works “closely with organizations such as The Fashion Pact, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and CDP Supply Chains to develop goals that align with best practices within the industry.”
  • McDonald’s and Starbucks joined forces to build a fully recyclable, compostable cup of the future within the next three years.
  • Apple runs on 100% green energy  at its production facilities, relying on wind and solar power instead of fossil fuels.
  • Walmart, Target and CVS teamed up to reinvent single-use plastic bags.
  • Everlane launched a clothing line that uses recycled plastics to make environmentally friendly outerwear. The company also committed to completely erase plastic from its supply chain by 2021.

Research completed by the Harvard Business Review concluded that “While often expensive, running a sustainable business can pay off in the long run — both financially and environmentally... [and] sustainable businesses see greater financial gains than their unsustainable counterparts.”

As Jope noted to McKinsey, “There is already evidence to indicate that money invested in green stimulus seems to result in a better ROI.”

Miller Zell is committed to environmentally friendly policies and practices, both with our own in-house efforts and in our partnerships with clients.

  • In February, Miller Zell CEO Chip Miller earned “Executive Champion — Small Company” honors in the 2021 Leaders in Corporate Citizenship Awards as presented by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
  • In 2018, Miller Zell installed a one-megawatt solar array on the roof of our corporate office and is now generating renewable electricity, so now solar production will offset our non-renewable energy use by nearly one-half each year and reduce our annual carbon footprint by 1,206 tons.
  • We are one of 58 companies in the nation that is recognized by the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) as a sustainable printing facility. 
  • In adopting SGP standards, Miller Zell maintains a sustainability policy that is overseen by a sustainability coordinator and committee. 
  • We adhere to a comprehensive recycling program, including the use of a process to recycle ultraboard, which is 40 percent of the company’s raw materials.
  • We engage in responsible material sourcing and use of resources. 
  • We focus on managing all of the company’s activities in an environmentally healthy, safe and responsible way. 
  • We seek to reduce waste, find ways to reuse and recycle and use energy more efficiently.

So, on Earth Day 2021, Miller Zell applauds businesses that prioritize green efforts all year long.

It makes a difference. For the world, and for the bottom line.

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