Paul Farrow, a ReVision Energy customer is retired but still does consulting to help businesses save money by, “going green.”
“The idea that sustainability encompasses every decision a business makes, from wellness programs to employee benefits, is gaining traction, according to Paul Farrow, former CEO of Belfast’s Moss Inc. and now a consultant on sustainability practices for a large private equity firm.
Farrow, also a MBS board member, warns Maine companies to ignore the movement toward sustainability at their own risk. The conventional wisdom that sustainable business practices drive up costs and are embraced only by businesses that see it as “a cool thing” and have the money to spend is wrong, he says. It’s become a matter of remaining competitive.
Businesses embracing sustainable business practices are still the minority, Farrow says. But some of the most powerful businesses in the world are already moving in that direction, he says. “If anybody asks me, ‘What could Maine businesses do in a sustainability sense to be as powerful as they could be,’ I’d say, ‘Go study the supply-chain initiatives of big companies,’” he says. “Start with Wal-Mart.”
Last October, Wal-Mart completed the first phase of a new sustainability initiative. It had its top suppliers complete a 15-question survey on their sustainability efforts. The initiative has already yielded cost savings for Wal-Mart and its suppliers, Farrow says, and forced a shift toward sustainability among companies that want to continue supplying products to the world’s largest retailer. Small businesses in Maine may not have the power to force a sea change within the business world, but they certainly want to be able to operate in supply chains like that, Farrow says. “We better be conversant in those terms because our competitors will be,” he says. “Those who say they can’t afford it or it’s too complicated will be left behind.”
A sustainable company may also see a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting talent, Carey says. At Eaton Peabody, Brown believes its sustainability initiatives — the alternative transportation program and focus on energy conservation — will give it an edge when it comes to hiring the next generation. “We find that each generation weighs those types of things more and more when considering where they want to work,” she says.
As companies adopt sustainable business practices, those fundamental values enter a company’s culture, Farrow says, leading it to gravitate toward suppliers and other businesses that share the same practices and attracting employees with similar values. “Once you start aligning values, employees there for the paycheck and not interested in fulfilling a bigger mission either get driven to improve because they start to believe in what the company is doing or they get driven out,” Farrow says. “It’s the real ticket to high-performance organizations.”
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