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Forget climate change, thinking sustainably is just good business sense

The climate change debate overshadows the REAL reason you should embrace sustainability -- it just makes good business sense.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Just read my colleague Larry Dignan's thoughtful post about the aftermath of the East Anglia e-mail hack, and how to "reset" the climate change discussion.

I have a confession to make: I don't really care about whether or not I can prove climate change is happening. Send me all the nasty emails you like when I write a post suggesting that businesses should use alternative energy sources because it make sound economic sense or when I venture to say that someone should reconfigure their data center to save electricity or that they should choose supply chain partners. Or, that (BLASPHEMY!) maybe our business world has squeezed all of the growth that it can out of the current industrial system.

I believe in all of my heart that sustainable business practices are simply good business practices, regardless of whether or not the sky is falling and when exactly it's going to do so. Because it is the ethical AND innovative thing to do.

My motivation for caring about how much stuff we all spit out into the atmosphere and how many natural resources we chew up or how many aquatic animals we choke with plastics is purely selfish. I like scuba diving, and yes I am aware of how precious coral reefs are. I like hiking to the tops of mountains where I can breathe air so pure that it burns my lungs.

I also believe that businesses have become complacent in the past couple of decades, because our political system has made it easy to be so. How can it NOT make sense for companies to look at ways of using solar and wind and water as energy sources. They are there in abundance. Other things are not. Where is it writ that fossil fuels are the be-all and end-all of our energy resources. Hello? When did the industrial revolution occur? Don't you think we're ready for some innovation as far as how things are powered and produced, without digging up all the beautiful places I hope everyone can visit some day.

The smart grid makes sense, too, because it brings closer control and -- with that automated productivity. The power in my house has gone out or browned out no less than six times in the last month. If that isn't a sign of a need for innovation and technological advancement among utilities, I don't know what is.

I agree with Larry Dignan that the climate change debate will nevermore be the same and that we need new discipline and new sciences. But, sadly, we're always going to wonder whether the numbers are cooked, and why and what it means. Forever. It's over. Done. The party's over.

But if the scary data of climate change is the ONLY reason that your company is looking to make changes in how you use the world's natural resources, that's really sad, too. And you're missing the point. Clean tech and green tech represent the next wave of business revolution and innovation, right behind the personal computer. That is the REAL reason to embrace their potential, and it's one that your board of directors can easily embrace.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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