Green Business Bureau Blog


Silos & Green Do Not Mix

May 05, 2010 | By: GBB | No Comments on Silos & Green Do Not Mix

‘Errare humanum est’, meaning ‘to err is human’. The green awakening is striving to put a brake on man’s erroneous ways with respect to mother earth and all her denizens. For decades together man has abused the generosity of nature and the fact that the rest of the earth’s population cannot protest. There is quite literally no one to voice a protest as entire ecosystems collapse and species after species die out because their world has turned hostile thanks to mankind’s ‘human’ errors.

While the green awakening holds the promise of finally giving back mother earth the respect she richly deserves and courteous treatment of all fellow creatures, it is difficult to see two and two add up to four. What do I mean? It is quite obvious what each organization, each business and each company needs to do in order to achieve sustainable and ecologically friendly practices. There are millions of brains and more fertile imaginations paid to think. They come up with innovative green ideas. Corporations pledge to turn into green businesses.

To those waiting for a dramatic green business culture to appear, this is like T.S.Eliot’s world ending “not with a bang, but with a whimper”. It simply does not happen the way it is supposed to. Two and two do not add up to a dreamy four. The question is, why?

The answer is again, the human factor. A business model is like a chess board, where each move is planned and mapped to precision. It is possible to plan the next ten moves. However, bring in Homo sapiens and the game changes. The chess board becomes dynamic and springs to life. Every pawn has emotions, feelings, ideas, thoughts, values, principles and an ego. What our docile chess game becomes then, is a crazy matrix. I exaggerate to drive home the point.

If production does not count themselves accountable to audit, and if software does not care about power bills, how will the business become green? In essence, a successful green business culture calls for accountability and transparency. Without these, it becomes all hot air and jargon, amounting to nothing.

And now let me venture into uncomfortable territory. If an inexpensive innovation replaces an expensive existing product, switching to the innovation may cost someone a commission. Stepping on toes becomes an issue when moving to cheaper and more efficient alternatives. Companies spend millions on research and development of products. Can you imagine how it must hurt them to abdicate to an inexpensive (although brilliant) cousin?

This brings us to the question of corporate culture. Every company has its own culture. There exist populations, popular beliefs and sub-populations. And not all of them see eye to eye. One department ignores the way another works. Simply because they can. In America, these are known as Silos. As long as there will be silos, no business will be able to practice a truly green business culture. Just as oil and water do not mix, silos and green do not mix.

This is a huge stumbling block that any business committed to becoming green needs to recognize and address. Thus it is up to businesses to identify their corporate culture and implement green thinking from the top down. A good place to begin would be to address these questions:
• “Is the pressure to perform unreasonable?
• Is it sometimes difficult to ask questions or raise concerns?
• Are compliance, ethics or even legal issues ever denigrated or marginalized?
• Is bad conduct rewarded or tolerated?
• Is there a close tie between performance and rewards?
• Does short-term thinking dominate?
• Do employees identify sufficiently with the interests of shareholders?
• Do employees understand and sufficiently care about the needs of the customers?
• Is the quality of products and/or services a high priority?
• Are employees proud of the products and/or services? Are they proud of the organization?”


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