Who are we calling a nincompoop? Certainly not our esteemed readers. Actually, we are the nincompoops in question. There are any number of specialists who have mastered the arcane vocabulary and techniques of green initiatives, and who can calculate a Yeti's carbon footprint on the back of a napkin. That's not us. But we do have some thoughts about cutting carbon in a supply chain that can make good sense, economically and functionally, and can be understood by people for whom linear equations are as daunting as decoding the human genome.
The key word here is "economically." However noble doing the right thing for the environment and saving the planet might be, we have an obligation to take actions in those directions that don't pollute enterprise performance. That ultimate reality—preserving the means of generating enough money to support the social good—seems to occasionally escape the notice of those committed to doing environmental good to the exclusion of all other considerations.
We bring this up because with green projects, questions about cost are bound to arise. Is going green just another onerous cost of doing business in this enlightened age? Can we make it a break-even proposition if we are careful? We, nincompoops as we might be, contend that targeted, focused, and selected green actions can be money-makers. And the cases and examples that we have studied back up that contention.
But how does an organization get started—or continue what's already under way?
STEALTHILY LAYING SOME GROUNDWORK
A little manipulation of allies beforehand is not a bad thing. Because this is about making money while doing good, you might want to think about playing "Let's Make a Deal" with the chief financial officer. That is, get him or her on board early with a commitment to set aside some of the money saved in a given green project to help fund future green projects, creating an ongoing self-funding process. If all savings are used to enhance profitability, there soon won't be enough in the kitty for longer-payback efforts.
Also, consider communicating regularly with the chief executive officer and the chief operating officer about practical and profitable green moves at other real-world companies. Having examples from companies of comparable size and/or the same industry increases your leverage.
GETTING DOWN TO NUTS AND BOLTS
Presuming that you are not blessed with battalions of environmental engineers and that you have not already done everything green possible, here are some suggestions for getting started:
TAKING A PAGE FROM THE LEBRON JAMES PLAYBOOK
While we're getting all strategic and managerial about committing to a walk down the green path, let us not forget the possibility of a few slam-dunks. Impressive easy points that will help set the stage for the more challenging undertakings that could follow. You need to look at the obvious, in which pioneers have already demonstrated that one can traverse a terrain peopled by hostiles and return with no arrows in the back. What follows is a list of topics to consider. Though not all will be applicable to your operation, they are worth close examination.
We confess. The reality of this exercise is more difficult than we would like. And there's more than we've been able to outline above. But it's a start to a long journey that is inevitable. The shift to a "reduce, reuse, recycle" way of life is inescapable. Happily, it will force holistic thinking about "cradle to cradle" product responsibility in both manufacture and distribution. It will require creativity in process design, and it will demand alignment of green supply chain practices with corporate objectives.
It's a new world. Some are well on their way to playing by new rules. The rest of us need to get on the green bus—or get left behind. By the way, the origin and meaning of "nincompoop" have been much debated, with some thought that the word is a corruption of another language's phrase, such as non compos mentis. Whatever the origin, the universal meaning is some level of fool. Sounds right to us.