People who are concerned about the environment should not let ecology get in the way of the economy, says a Vancouver-area business consultant and author.
John Izzo urged attendees at the inaugural B.C. Bioneers Conference held recently in Vancouver to understand that they can make a difference when it comes to protecting the planet.
But they should not try to stop progress, he added.
“In a way, my whole message to companies – and people, period – is you matter, you can make a difference, you are a part of the game,” Izzo said. “For leaders, it’s really (about) realizing all the different ways that you can impact (sustainability), from challenging things that your company is doing that you don’t think are right, to suggesting other ways that they could be done, to the individual actions you take in your life.”
|Bayne Stanley, Business Edge|
|Author John Izzo’s message is that people can make a difference in protecting the planet while progress continues.|
Izzo has authored four books on how to create a healthy and happy workplace and has counselled such firms as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, TD Bank and CIBC. During his sessions with business leaders, he also stresses the importance of protecting the planet.
The three-day 2004 Bioneers Conference, called Creating the Next Golden Age – Believing It Can Be Done brought together local social activists, politicians and business leaders at the Maritime Labour Union Hall. Topics included corporate responsibility, the role of personal spirituality in public life and preserving the integrity of food sources.
Similar events were held around North America by Bioneers, a non-profit organization based in California that conducts educational and economic development programs in the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, traditional farming practices and environmental restoration.
A former Presbyterian minister, Izzo left the clergy because he felt that he could improve the world by helping businesses create better workplaces. He said the relationship between ecology and the economy is ultimately a spiritual question.
Business leaders are starting to understand the importance of developing business practices that protect the environment, but they still have a long way to go, and there is still more work to be done, he said.
“You hear the words now – sustainability, social responsibility, triple bottom line, the idea that we have a responsibility beyond just profits,” said Izzo.
More examples are needed of companies that are doing provocative things, and getting out and talking about their sustainable activities, he added.
Dag Falck, an organic program manager for Vancouver-based Nature’s Path Foods Inc. who participated in a panel workshop session at the conference, said companies must understand that long-term ecological and economic benefits go hand in hand. If a company decides not to adopt sustainable practices, it may still make a profit in the short term, but it will lose out in the long term.
“(The business) won’t just go downhill,” said Falck, a trained agronomist and organic certification inspector. “It will stop altogether.”
Governments may soon require all companies to adopt measures that protect the Earth, believes Falck, and businesses that have already embraced sustainability will be much better off than those that have not. He noted every business should assess its water and fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and other practices that might be harmful to the environment and then develop an action plan.
Falck added B.C. appears to be doing a better job of practising sustainability than other places, although the province continues to deplete its fishery, log out its forests and threaten its ocean life by planning to develop offshore oil and gas.
“The good news is that there is an amazing uplift of understanding, particularly at the big-business level,” said Colin Grant, founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Real Living Solutions Inc.
Grant, who attended the conference as a moderator, said most CEOs understand the importance of the triple bottom line – environmental, social and economic sustainability. But no corporation is currently sustainable, he added. “We can’t continue to (destroy the environment) and expect to survive as businesses or as a species,” said Grant.
He said it’s important for people to understand that the drive for sustainability is not just a “rinky-dink movement,” and that more groups than Greenpeace and non-governmental organizations are involved.
Founded in 2002, Real Living Solutions provides its own sustainability-related SEE-IT software and consulting services to businesses, governments and other organizations. Its customers include BP UK Oil Ltd., Novex Couriers, Grouse Mountain ski hill, Nature’s Path and the federal government.
A native of Scotland, Grant founded the multi-award-winning, U.K.-based environmental cleanup company Bio-Logic, which won the British government’s Millennium Award in 1999. He moved to Vancouver in 2001 because of the “amazing quality of life” and because there’s “such a level of steam” when it comes to sustainability.
B.C. has the potential to become a world leader in sustainability, Grant believes, adding the province must speed up its efforts. “If we are truly to become a world leader, we need to move at a far greater pace,” he said. “There’s a wonderful opportunity here. We’re not grasping it nearly as quickly as we should.”
(Monte Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)