Environmental awareness used to be a niche area. However, as more information has become available to the general public it has become interwoven into everyday lifestyle and business practices. Thus, being green is no longer just a trend. A significant percentage of consumers are more likely to support companies that have environmental programs and initiatives in place. Not too long from now, consumers will expect companies to be environmentally responsible as part of their business method.
There are two main reasons for the widespread adaptation of green principles: the environment and health concerns. As Dennis Thompson of Jan-Pro remarked to us, “The keys to strong [sales] growth will be in the advances in technologies that improve overall health and indoor air quality while sustaining green clean initiatives and customer pricing expectations.”
He spoke from experience. Thompson said “the primary contributing factor for renewed growth” was Jan-Pro’s development of a disinfection program called EnviroShield. EnviroShield is an EPA registered disinfectant and deodorizing cleaner. To be EPA registered the system presented must meet all EPA requirements for Toxicity Category IV (no harmful dermal, ocular, inhalation, or ingestion effects). The cleaning agent requires no special storage method or ventilation. It is also non-flammable, non-corrosive and non-staining on all surfaces and requires no protective equipment for its operator or safety precautions for building occupants.
The food industry is another highly impacted area—but not just in terms of the food itself. How the food and the items used in its preparation are handled has seen a makeover as well.
There has never been a better time to become part of a green franchise. Going green not only gives a franchise good PR, it also helps a company’s bottom line. The U.S. government has also pledged billions of dollars towards environmental programs and renewable energy initiatives. Whether it is a franchise that directly aids the environment or a franchise that employs green practices, the future is bright for the green franchise industry.
The Effect of the Internet and the Transparency Theory
The Internet has made for great strides in the availability of information to the masses. The push for transparency it has ushered in may have expedited the process of companies becoming green or greener.
In economic theory, the more transparent a market, the healthier it will be. It is also thought that a company cannot judge itself to be sustainable or responsible and can only be judged in these areas by others. By implementing radical transparency, a management method where all decisions and practices are made public, consumers are allowed to have full access to the information relating to the environmental (as well as health and social) impacts of what businesses do. This level of available information enables consumers to make better-informed, green conscious choices when purchasing goods, thereby pushing businesses towards less harmful products.
While comparatively few companies operate under radical transparency, information on businesses is now available through social networking sites, blogs, websites and more. Some of the websites that disperse information are not necessarily run by the businesses themselves, but by a third party. Many companies are also making forms available where company practices are critiqued by company employees and consumers.
Some speculated that the reporting of environmental and social matters would be curtailed as a by-product of the economic downturn. But the financial crisis appeared to create more pressure from stakeholders, customers and investors for companies to increase transparency and close the gap when it comes to disclosing non-financial information.
McDonald’s, for example, began working with Conservation International through its Center for Environmental Leadership in Business to incorporate sustainability into McDonald’s processes. One of the results of this partnership was a Supplier Environmental Scorecard. The scorecard aids McDonald’s suppliers in measuring and improving upon four key areas of environmental impact: water use, energy use, solid waste, and air emissions. The scorecard was originally completed and put into practice in 2005 and has since been expanded to global use.
Terms and Programs to Look For
There are a myriad of organizations that have been founded to provide an environmental and sustainability oversight of businesses. Below is a look at a few of the main ones along with a few terms that often come up when researching green efforts.
A business or franchise’s carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gas produced through their activities. This is usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂).
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that promotes the use of energy-efficient products and services. Energy Star-marked appliances and electronics meet the program's strict energy-efficiency guidelines.
Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit and third-party certifier of transactions between the U.S. and international suppliers. The Fair Trade Certified™ label guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product. Fair Trade Certification is currently available for a number of products including:
- Apparel and linens
- Beans and grains
- Body care
- Packaged foods
- Flowers and plants
- Fruits and vegetables
- Herbs and spices
- Nuts and oilseeds
- Sports balls
Greenwashing occurs when an individual or entity makes misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service.
Founded in 1989, Green Seal is a nonprofit organization that provides environmental certification. The mission of Green Seal is to use science-based programs to empower consumers, purchasers and companies to create a more sustainable world. The Green Seal was developed to help shoppers find “truly green products.”
Green Seal certified its first products in 1992 and provides an extensive weekly-updated list of products it has certified.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built with sustainability in mind.
According to the USGBC, LEED can help:
- Lower operating costs and increase asset value.
- Conserve energy, water and other resources.
- Be healthier and safer for occupants.
- Qualify for money-saving incentives, like tax rebates and zoning allowances.
Sustainability is using natural resources for current needs and wants without compromising their availability for future generations.
The U.S. Green Building Council
The U.S. Green Building Council is a coalition of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofits, teachers and students, lawmakers and citizens who have united in the effort to change the ways building and communities are designed, built and operated. The USGBC is currently comprised of 76 chapters, 12,870 member organizations and 197,000 LEED professionals.