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Going Green is Risky

Going "green" is a difficult concept to get one's head around. It reminds me of the conversations we used to have at my former university about offering a degree in Sustainable Business. If one is doing business "right" it is by definition sustainable. By that we meant that if business is done the right way, it automatically accounts for its impact on People, Profit, and Planet. So offering a Sustainable Business degree seemed redundant. The same argument could be made for going green. It seems that the traditional way of thinking about business is that one can "Help the environment and hurt your business, or irreparably harm your business while protecting the earth." But I think, based on my own experience working with a number of businesses and organizations, that going green is almost "baked into" most leaders' thinking these days. As Richard Clarke, CEO of Pacific Gas and Electric noted, "A strong global economy is sustainable only if it integrates economic, social, and environmental well-being."

Still, exactly what needs to change in a business or organization in order to be "green" is often hard to define or find agreement on. A large chunk of what constitutes leadership practice is actually risk management. General Stanley McChrystal recently published a book on this (Risk: A User's Guide) that I'm reading now. If leaders are trying to reduce risk in their organizations, they will be disposed to look at green initiatives as risky, expensive, and not worth pursuing. This is where John Kotter's change process become valuable. It identifies the risks and creates buy-in from the leaders. Without the buy-in, the change is doomed to failure.

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