What international business owners are doing for sustainability

If you have an interest in, or indeed, actively campaign on the issue of eco friendliness, then you might have a less than positive attitude toward business and its impact on the environment, but more and more businesses are embracing the concept of sustainability and have made great strides in promoting it and implementing its concepts within their own operations.

Influential business people who have embraced the idea of sustainability include Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Inc., one of the leading names in PC manufacturing. The computer manufacturing industry has struggled in the past to safely dispose of its products or to recycle them. Dell has been a pioneer in its sustainability efforts, allowing customers to return any products with the Dell name on them to it free, for the purposes of recycling. Dell has even gone so far as to accept products from other manufacturers.

In the area of airline travel, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic, has been at the fore in efforts to identify and develop alternative fuel supplies. The airline is working to reduce carbon emissions from its aircraft. It also has an active recycling and waste reduction program, ridding itself of polystyrene food containers and plastic cups and recycling old office furniture for use by local charities. Branson emphasizes sustainability across his Virgin business empire and the Virgin Stars of the Year awards recognizes employees who make great efforts to promote environmentally responsible policies.

Sustainability is a big issue for the resources sector, of course, and the Indonesian entrepreneur  Sukanto Tanoto, founder and chairman of the RGE group of resource-based businesses, is well aware of this. Tanoto has built his enterprise from a maker of plywood in Indonesia into a global giant, with operations in China and Brazil and sales worldwide, but he knows that his business can only grow if it acts responsibly and ethically. All of his companies have as an aim the use of efficient production systems and there is an emphasis both on energy savings and on operating in a way that aligns with environment concerns.

For some companies, investing in sustainability makes sense from a business perspective. Embracing the notion of resource sustainability helps reinforce a positive message among consumers that the company takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, but it also helps ensure that the company survives into the future. Automakers, for example, recognize the importance of developing alternative fuel sources to power their cars. Otherwise, the future of the motor vehicle, as oil supplies run out, looks rather bleak.

Sustainability is seen as important from a business perspective, in part because these businesses want to grow into the future. In a similar fashion, we, as ordinary citizens, want to secure our own future and that of future generations. In the presence of the continued and rapid depletion of resources, that future looks less bright, so the challenge for us all is to embrace sustainability and to fight our own personal battles against waste.