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Green is the New Black

Developments about the regulations that govern sustainability and green business are crucial in their own way. This time around, columnist Midori Connolly gets into the business side of sustainabilit 7/27/2009 7:58 AM Eastern

Green is the New Black

Developments about the regulations that govern sustainability and green business are crucial in their own way. This time around, columnist Midori Connolly gets into the business side of sustainability and, more specifically, how AV pros can stand to profit from the green AV movement.

I have to admit something. I sort of struggled with the last edition of Sustainable AV. Recent developments about regulations that govern sustainability and green business are crucial and exciting in their own way. But inspired writing? Not so much. This time around, however, I'm thrilled to get into the business side of sustainability and, more specifically, how we can all stand to profit from the green AV movement. When contemplating the different ways to profit from green AV and green business practices, we should first revisit the underlying principle of sustainable business. Basically, it's that we must consume less than what we have available in order to endure and sustain.

Just as with a household budget, we have to carefully allocate our resources. In the case of sustainable business, we're managing our planet's natural resources and our greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprint. Although we're voluntarily tightening the belt now, soon these steps to limit our impact will be government-mandated. Some of the methods used to meet our ecological budget include energy efficiency, water conservation, waste diversion, and reduced consumption of raw materials.

As it concerns the AV industry, we can stand to benefit from this methodology in many ways. To illustrate the point, let's look at manufacturing. In some ways, the benefits are quite obvious. As natural resources such as water and aluminum become more expensive, modifying manufacturing processes to limit their input can cut costs proportionally. But there's also a significant business opportunity here. Can you see it? Let me help with an example.

A manufacturer recently sent me a detailed memorandum on the recyclability of its projectors. The aluminum construction was meant to be easily disassembled and recycled. To be sure, I was impressed that they had designed their product with the end of its life in mind. However, what if the company were to take it one step further and offer a recycling program? The recycling of an old projector reduces the need for increasingly costly virgin aluminum (this is a progression from "cradle-to-grave" and referred to as "cradle-to-cradle" design). Besides cutting material costs, the manufacturer has also created invaluable new touch points throughout the product's lifetime. Does it get any better than having a client think of your company first when a projector has reached the end of its useful life? And how convenient to know when a client is in need of a new product.

Sticking with this example, the benefits also trickle down to the various distribution channels. In an economy where we're all searching for ways to augment our touch points without increasing costs, sustainability is a positive and worthwhile excuse for additional communications with clientele.

This notion of creating positive communications leads to another benefit of sustainable business, which involves the branding and positioning of our products, services, and industry as a whole. As individual players in the field, we must each represent our positions with lucid and bold statements about our commitment to sustainability. In a world that is increasingly concerned about energy consumption and wasteful practices, consumers are voraciously seeking green brands. In a 2009 Deloitte research report, "Finding Green in Today's Shoppers," a whopping 95 percent of the approximate 6,000 shoppers surveyed indicated they are ready and willing to consider more sustainable products.



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Green is the New Black

Developments about the regulations that govern sustainability and green business are crucial in their own way. This time around, columnist Midori Connolly gets into the business side of sustainability and, more specifically, how AV pros can stand to profit from the green AV movement.

Now, to truly comprehend the opportunity of branding and messaging around sustainable AV, we must consider what it is about purchasing products and/or services from a green company that's so appealing to a potential buyer. I'd suggest it's because done right, it can be as easy as it is fulfilling. Few other movements have ever provided the opportunity to directly communicate a company's values. If in our manufacturer example, the company were to stick an eco-label, such as the EPA's Energy Star logo, smack dab on the front of its projectors, in its operational manuals, and all over other messaging it gives to customers, it would effectively convey its company mission with just that one simple gesture.

Something like an eco-label or ISO certification is a bold, clear statement of a company's commitment to sustainability. It declares the company worked hard and cared enough to comply with environmental standards, which in turn demonstrates the organization's concern for more than just selling a product. It stands for a firm's longevity, its potential to be in the middle of things in the future, which is very important to a client making a large expenditure, especially in the current economy.

Additionally, sustainable business practices generally indicate the forefront of technological innovation. So a company that clearly communicates its sustainable practices also positions itself as a leader in innovation.

While we might all stand to profit from the message of a green brand, there's one thing we should keep in mind. In a recent presentation on green branding, Annie Longsworth of Cohn & Wolfe said that when it comes to being green, perfection isn't imperative. But in the extensive Twitter conversation that ensued, everyone agreed that authenticity is. Today's buyer is no dummy–they approach the very idea of green AV with a healthy dose of skepticism and will want to know how, exactly, AV can be "green." In the absence of something like the Energy Star seal or BS8901 green event certification, your company should keep a detailed list of its green practices and/or products. Transparency is vital.

If you're being authentic, don't fall prey to the new phenomenon of "greenmuting," where companies are too modest or uncertain to talk about their sustainability efforts. By all means, document your green policies, create a structured communications plan, and let the world know that you're striving to make a difference. In sharing your sustainable business practices, you can inspire other AV pros, bolster loyalty in client relations and ultimately achieve a robust "financial statement." AV

Midori Connolly is CEO of Pulse Staging and Events in San Diego, a member of the Green Meeting Industry Council, a corporate social responsibility trainer for Meeting Professionals International, and an InfoComm lecturer on green AV topics.



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