At West Coast Green a few weeks ago, I became inspired listening to some of the biggest names in the move toward sustainability—Sarah Susanka, David Suzuki, Hunter Lovins, Michelle Kaufmann, to name a few. What struck me most about these environmental leaders is that they don’t just design and build green homes or preach sustainability. They believe and live it to their core. They see building and living sustainably as a necessity to a happier, healthier life.

As I reflect on the examples these leaders have set personally and professionally, I think we’re witnessing a clear convergence between the environmental perspectives at the center of green building and sustainability, and the strengthening business rationale for why we all should listen to their messages. Consider the economic factors of honing your company’s sustainability core.

  1. There will come a time when you’ll need to practice what you preach. As green building becomes more popular—and surveys indicate it will lead all other trends when the downturn ends—being green in name won’t be good enough. Buyers will demand more than greenwashing. They will look beyond the word or even the label to find out what’s underneath. Jobsite waste management, treatment of employees, and involvement in community already matter to the greenest of buyers. Fostering the kind of company-wide philosophy that resonates with buyers and employees begins with its leadership. If you don’t believe in what the company is doing, why should anyone else?

  2. Your employees also will demand it. According to a workshop I attended at West Coast Green, 77% of respondents to a workplace survey said working for a green employer is important. Nine out of 10 MBAs want to work for sustainable companies. Expanding your company’s sustainability footprint means more than just building green homes. The panelists offered the following recommendations:

      • Integrate sustainability into the company’s mission and values
      • Offer green products and services
      • Utilize green building and practices
      • Have a green transport policy
      • Incorporate employee programs that promote work/life balance
      • Sponsor events that give back to the community

  3. Your crews need to buy-in to fully deliver. If your installers—in-house crews and subs alike--don’t understand the reasoning behind green building, will they care enough to buy the products you’ve specified or implement the techniques you’ve requested?

  4. Green building is an investment. I’ve said before that going green isn’t always easy—starting out often requires a sometimes costly commitment involving research and training, changes to supply relationships, and learning a new language. Don’t waste your time if green is just a marketing ploy that can be tossed aside at the next upturn. Be the champion of the mission and set the tone your company can stick to for years to come.