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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Sustainable Business Practices on the Rise in Phoenix: Kena Fedorschak shares how Valley-area companies are applying sustainability in a corporate environment

Jan 31, 2014 09:01AM ● By By Kena Fedorschak

“Sustainability” is a buzzword that has taken a prominent place within Arizona businesses. As a young professional with a degree in sustainability from Arizona State University, I find myself constantly drawn into debate regarding the merits and weaknesses of sustainable business models. Much contention arises from differing interpretations and definitions of what the term sustainability actually means. The United Nations Brundtland Commission report eloquently defines sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Depletion of natural resources is not sustainable, and neither is a world where violence proliferates and over 1 billion people are forced to live on less than $1.25 per day. Unfortunately, environmental degradation is often the result of normal business operations; poverty, conflict, and disease continue to plague all regions of the globe. Sustainability is the realization that we must make collective efforts to ensure the future prosperity of all life on Earth. It is the recognition that access to food, water and shelter is a fundamental human right—we cannot rest until this goal has been attained. In short, sustainability asserts that we must take full responsibility for how our actions impact each other and the environment.

Historically, implementation of sustainable initiatives in the private sector was limited to a select few industries (i.e., environmental health and safety, renewable energy, consulting, regulatory and code compliance, disaster response, etc.). However, in recent years, implementation of sustainable initiatives has spread beyond these industries. Businesses are beginning to realize that sustainable thinking is critical for long-term success. Companies that embrace sustainability principles understand that social and environmental variables are integral to their operations—profit cannot be the only aim. Sustainable businesses promote prosperity, equality and the well-being of their community. They strive for financial success while simultaneously working to mitigate their environmental impact. A few notable Phoenix-area businesses are profiled here to demonstrate how sustainability can be applied in a corporate environment:

Eco PACT (EcoAluminumPallets.com) manufactures affordable, environmentally friendly aluminum pallets from 70 percent recycled materials. The pallets militate against environmental damage caused by conventional wood or plastic pallets that require frequent replacement. They are lighter, stronger and more durable than conventional pallets—each pallet sold has a 10-year limited warranty. The pallets’ return on investment period can be as little as two years.

Arizona Public Service (aps.com), the state’s largest provider of electricity, has made great strides in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from power generation. Solar energy has been a major contributor; APS added approximately 410 megawatts of large-scale solar capacity in 2013—enough to power 100,000 homes. The transition to solar has been a major driver of economic growth and has resulted in decreased greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, APS makes use of other renewable energy technologies (e.g., wind, biomass, geothermal and biogas). APS also has numerous community support initiatives that include participation in the Arizona Private Education Credit Program, designed to assist limited-income students gain access to education and match 50 cents of every dollar donated by employees to the United Way. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has presented its Sustained Excellence Award to APS each of the last four consecutive years.

Park&Co (ParkAndCo.com) is the only Phoenix-based advertising agency that publishes an environmental policy statement. The agency understands that financial viability is crucial to sustainability, and works to create compelling promotional materials for clients that make a positive impact in social or environmental arenas. Clients include Goodwill of Central Arizona, the Water–Use It Wisely conservation campaign and the Expect More Arizona educational campaign. In addition, Park&Co is writing the communications curriculum for the new Executive Masters for Sustainability Leadership program at Arizona State University, creating a national movement to promote civic debate in public schools for the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation, and launching an eco-driving training program for Coca-Cola's 60,000 member transportation/distribution fleet.

eGreen IT-Solutions (egreenitsolutions.com) and Jepco Recycling Resources (jepcorr.com) are industry leaders in computer and electronics recycling. Both companies recycle electronic equipment, paper, cardboard, soft and hard plastic, metal, pallets, etc. eGreen IT-Solutions is certified by e-Stewards and specializes in IT asset disposition and development of environmental management systems for businesses. Jepco Recycling Resources facilitates revenue producing recycling programs for many companies in Phoenix, including Boeing, Cardinal Health, Discount Tire, PetSmart and The Gap.

Henkel’s (henkelna.com) North American consumer goods headquarters are located in Scottsdale. The multinational company produces laundry and home care products, beauty care products and adhesives. Purex, Renuzit, Dial, Right Guard, Loctite and others are Henkel brands. Henkel is committed to reducing the environmental impact associated with the use of their products (e.g., Purex Natural Elements laundry detergent contains 95 percent naturally sourced biodegradable ingredients and uses recycled resins for packaging). The company delivers educational programs to elementary and high school children in North America (e.g., Henkel employees taught a one-hour lesson on sustainability to more than 700 K-12 students in the Scottsdale and Phoenix School districts last year). Additionally, Henkel has been listed as an industry group leader for the last six years in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

REEis Inc. (reeishome.com) is a general building and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning contractor that specializes in analysis, improvement and construction of high-performing, energy-efficient homes. Technicians audit existing homes to determine where failures and improvement opportunities exist. Changes are then recommended to resolve comfort issues (e.g. colder/warmer rooms in a house), air quality concerns and energy efficiency issues. New homes are constructed to meet Energy Star standards and take solar orientation into consideration.

These examples highlight just a few businesses that have taken steps to promote sustainability. Profit will always be important for business, but social and environmental objectives must take an increasingly prominent role in business operations if we are to ensure the well-being of our children and grandchildren.

Kena Fedorschak co-founded the Honor Society for Sustainability at Arizona State University. He believes sustainable management practices can be implemented without negatively impacting the bottom line. Contact him at [email protected].

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