To go green, cities and companies look to meaningful partnerships

Amazon moves its headquarters within Seattle city limits, drawing neighborhood investment and revitalization. Is it a company "going green," redefined?
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

The days of a company sponsoring a citywide "green" day are over.

A new kind of public-private partnership is emerging in the nation's cities, a more meaningful variety that may not always be environmentally-minded but is certainly to the benefit of both.

Jon Hiskes writes in Sustainable Industries about the opening of Amazon's new headquarters in Seattle, and how it's changing the way business and politics meet. Instead of a company simply looking to charitable giving for corporate social responsibility, Hiskes writes that Amazon is approaching it from a core operations perspective.

Simply, a company's presence -- and its economic success -- can easily be "green" enough if it leads to urban revitalization.

He writes:

Amazon has arguably done more than any other actor to transform South Lake Union over the last several years from an expanse of car lots and under-used warehouses into a glitzy high-tech corridor.

Of course, the company has received major help from the city in the form of a streetcar line. And Amazon wasn’t the first company to bring in high-wage jobs to a neighborhood that now includes biomedical research labs and global health non-profits. But the company's headquarters of nine buildings (with one more planned) forms the heart of the neighborhood, creating dense urban infill that can supports transit, new housing and a wave of new retail.

Most of Amazon's 1.7 million square feet of space is certified as LEED Gold. That efficiency, plus myriad other quality of life improvements, only underscore the opportunity for other innovators to move in and keep the city's economic engine humming.

It's a completely different approach from the world of high-profile naming rights that make little impact on a city -- and arguably aren't worth the dollars in the first place.

(Exhibit A: Perhaps instead of taking a marketing approach and renaming Philadelphia's Pattison Avenue subway station to "AT&T Station," the telecom company ought to relocate some operations and instead create jobs -- and value, if it hires local college graduates -- in the city.)

C-suite executives love to say that "green is green" -- that is, sustainability has a direct connection to real dollars. Can they draw a direct line from social responsibility to innovation, too?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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