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Big multinational businesses have been spending billions for many years to make their products, facilities, supply chains and operations more "green" and more "sustainable". The main driving force has been the ability to save money by reducing waste and inefficiency.
Many smaller and medium-sized businesses have yet to sieze these competitive advantages. This is partly because "green" seems like a luxury, rather than a business necessity, and because it seems confusing and complicated. True, it is complex, and changing rapidly, but the benefits of improved efficiency and cost savings are so important that every business should be taking advantage of them.
Fortunately, many good on-line sustainability learning tools for business have become available. These can be a very quick and cost-effective way for businesses to get up the sustainability learning curve, and to actually see concrete benefits in their operations.
- Some courses are quite elaborate, more like on-campus executive education programs, both in content and price. An example is the University of Vermont's Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Innovation. It offers three eight-week courses, and costs thousands of dollars.
- Other programs offer more detailed technical training. For instance, Schneider Electric's Energy University offers courses on such topics as "Boiler Types and Opportunities for Energy Efficiency" and eight courses on "Building Controls".
- A recent entrant is the Talearnt Green Tech program, which is kicking off with a free mini-course on "Basics of Business Sustainability", targeted at managers in small and medium-sized businesses and those who aspire to business careers. [Full disclosure: I am the Director of the Talearnt Green Tech program, and the instructor for the "Basics of Business Sustainability" course.]
My opinion is that every business can save money and become more competitive by reducing waste and increasing efficiency. Businesses starting today can learn from the successes and failures of those that have gone before. But you should follow a proven method: walk before you try to run. The savings from early, easy green actions can help pay for more complex projects later. Don't start with hard-to-justify green branding programs or capital-intensive on-site renewables schemes. Start at the beginning.
Since every business can benefit from effective green action (and maybe help save the planet a little at the same time), that means every manager and every employee should understand sustainability issues. And these inexpensive, efficient, and effective on-line programs can be an essential tool to build those skills and achieve both corporate and career goals.
Image credit: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crystal_Clear_app_business.png