Sustainable Businesses Benefit from Working Together

Posted by Trish Riley, December 3, 2009

Sustainable Businesses Benefit from Working Together
by Trish Riley

Book Cover ImageA big part of the green and sustainable movement requires a rethinking
of business as usual. Although companies of the past have risen to the
top with a spirit of competitiveness considered healthy for business, the
new paradigm suggests that cooperating and collaborating may be a more
successful way to gain ground in business. Developing a community philosophy
of working together and helping one another with shared goals of
creating prosperity and a healthier planet for all is the prevailing attitude
of the new green economy. Although it might seem contrary to traditional
ideas, working with our peers to get ahead can prove to be a successful
approach to business. And guess what? It works.

Cooperation Trumps Competition

Most business people have discovered that networking with other professionals can
enhance their business through increased contact and visibility in their field. But
oftentimes, professional interests are at odds when talking or working with others
in the same field. Competition can create a barrier that keeps those with like minds
from working together because they’re afraid the competition may steal their ideas or
their clients. Although the current business mantra deems competition to be good,
that’s only because it spurs workers to move more quickly than their peers to capture
a potential market. Sustainable businesses find that cooperating with peers to achieve
goals—instead of competitively hiding information from them—can be a win/win
situation for all involved.

The green business approach posits that working together can help achieve even
greater goals than a few sales, and the result can be more progress toward shared
objectives. Sustainable businesses focus on goals that impact the planet and the health
of citizens worldwide while increasing their profits. This approach can lead to greater
success for all involved.

Collaborating for Common Good

In the emerging economic climate, which will address green energy and efficiency
and create multiple opportunities, saving the planet and turning around hazardous
practices becomes a greater good that companies can work together to achieve.
Strength in numbers and the power of group energy focused on problems, such as
cleaning up polluted water and air or reducing construction waste, is the only way we will meet these important goals, and these factors are essential to continued life on Earth. Sustainable businesses
understand this and factor this knowledge into their design plans. Working
together, businesses will be able to achieve these goals more effectively.
Networking with other businesses that share your goals of sustainability will help you
find and support suppliers and customers working toward the same planet, people,
and profit values that your company supports. You can connect with these companies
and avoid supporting businesses that don’t share these values. Teaming up to support
the same suppliers can result in a discounted cost for purchasing products. Often
referred to as a purchasing co-op, many small- and medium-size businesses use this
as a cost reduction strategy.

Benefits Beyond the Bottom Line

Networking with like-minded owners can help businesses gather power on a large enough
scale to affect basic changes in the way they do business and to prevent the
worst effects of global warming and a greed-based economy. Part of your sustainable
business plan should include benefits such as cleaner air, water, and soil; and employees
should have more time to spend with their families or to pursue other creative and
intellectual aspects instead of just working to survive. Once considered intangible
benefits that had little or no place in the workplace, today the value of these is recognized
as important for our health and well-being. They are part of the triple bottom
line or integrated bottom line that sustainable businesses focus on, providing business benefits for people and the planet as well as profit. Working together can enable businesses to make large-scale
changes to help prevent global warming. While large and small sustainable businesses are focusing on more objectives than just profit, by developing sustainable practices, they also benefit from cost savings and increased profits.

Networking Resources

Green Chamber of Commerce organizations, which are beginning to pop up across
the country, are a great place to meet other like-minded green business leaders and
potential collaborators. If your city or town doesn’t currently have a Green Chamber
of Commerce, why not create one? You will increase the presence of your business
in the community, serve as a leader, and encourage sustainable business practices
throughout your town.

Working With Community Initiatives

As we move into a new green economy, businesses are taking a leading role in
rebuilding a world infrastructure and society that will be a friendlier and healthier
place in the future. One of the best ways sustainable businesses can positively affect
their communities is to partner with social and government programs to help community
members gain footing in the new paradigm. Becoming a player in the new
green movement is the most effective way to take advantage of this as we face the changes that are inevitable as we deal with global warming and a changing economy.

Supporting Sustainable Community Programs

Networking opportunities abound in your home community, so look for a cause that
the expertise of your business can help. Seek out programs that are doing the kinds of work your sustainable values support. For example, if you’re in the green building
business or you manufacture or retail green building supplies, check in with the local
housing authority to find out if there is a community initiative to develop affordable
green housing. Consider donating your products to local businesses and non-profit organizations for auctions, fund raisers, or prizes for their incentive programs or dispatch staff as volunteer helpers.

The Excitement of Being at the Forefront of Change
This is the new world of possibility and an opportunity to change not just the way we
use our Earth’s resources but also the way we do business. The new green economy
gives us the chance to rewrite the meaning of business and economy in the twenty-first
century. As you craft your sustainable business plan, you have the power to
affect changes in how we view our economy and how it impacts life on Earth. While
developing more environmentally friendly practices, you’re reducing your energy
usage and waste output and learning how to use resources more efficiently. You’re
even creating friendlier lifestyles for yourself and your employees. Should the 32-hour
workweek take hold on a broad scale, we might have time to pursue hobbies, increase
our knowledge through reading or continuing education, and perhaps find time to
simply ruminate—the foundation of creative thought, which is the source of invention
and solutions. Welcome to the Green Revolution, and thank you for choosing
to be a part of creating a healthier, happier future for all of us and our children. It’s

Trish Riley is editor and publisher of, an award-winning environmental/investigative journalist and the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guides to Green Living and Greening Your Business (2007 and 2009, Penguin). This article is excerpted from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Greening Your Business.

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