Earth Day - Hype, Hindrance or Helpful
Can it provide insight for business planning?

Competing in today's global economy requires businesses to approach challenges and issues from a best management practices perspective. In many instances, it is a prerequisite for management planning that we scan the business environment for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Often referred to as a SWOT analysis. This process, if completed effectively, allows a company to expand traditional conceptual horizons in order to view their product and/or service as part of a larger system that impacts society and is gradually impacted by society over time.

It is difficult for many of us to put aside our pre-conceived notions and listen to what we consider to be opposing viewpoints. However, by doing so, we acknowledge the diversity of reasoning and opinion that ultimately effects how many successful businesses develop strategies and plan their course of action.

The following includes several excerpts from the Earth Day 2000 (April 4, 2000) kick off speech by Carol M. Browner, Administrator U.S. EPA. Those that read carefully will uncover the basis for environmental regulatory and societal pressures expected to impact business over the next several years.

Remarks by Carol M. Browner:
"Thirty years have passed since the first Earth Day, in 1970, when millions of people joined in one of the largest demonstrations of public opinion in the history of our country. This Earth Day we celebrate the cleanest environment in a generation. But our job is not done. We still face tremendous environmental and public health challenges. One of our biggest challenges is climate change-an environmental challenge unlike any we've faced.

"Despite the magnitude of this challenge, there are nay-sayers who tell us the problem isn't real or that the solutions are too costly. This is nothing new. These are the same people who told us that protecting the environment and growing our economy were incompatible goals. They were wrong. And, the American people knew they were wrong.

"The American people believed then, as they do now, that the fight for clean air, for clean water, and for a healthy environment was a fight worth having, a fight we could win. And today, we enjoy the cleanest environment and the strongest economy in decades. Now is the time for common-sense action on climate change.

"The 2001 Climate Change Budget calls for accelerated efforts to promote clean energy technologies; a stepped-up program to develop bioenergy and bio-based products; and new efforts like the Clean Air Partnership Fund to boost state and local efforts to reduce both greenhouse gases and ground-level air pollutants. As part of his budget, the President has proposed spending $227 million for the third year of his Climate Change Technology Initiative. This initiative will promote voluntary measures that reduce energy use and bring down the energy bills of all Americans.

"°°We are also addressing other sources of harmful pollution-coal-fired power plants that contribute significantly to some of the most severe environmental problems facing the United States today. Our message to these plants, which have wrongfully emitted millions of tons of harmful pollution, is simple: We will not tolerate the degradation of the public's health and the environment.

"The legacy of Earth Day is the commitment the American people expect when this country faces threats like climate change. Not just a commitment from leaders, but from themselves; a personal commitment Americans can make every day. An energy-efficiency program sponsored by EPA and the Department of Energy tells the tale. This is a common-sense program that removes barriers in the marketplace and spurs investments in more efficient and clean technologies.

"Over the next decade alone, because of the investments made in the Energy Star Program, Americans will save more than $24 billion and help reduce millions of tons of harmful pollutants. If all consumers bought Energy Star products, it is estimated we would save over $100 billion in energy bills over the next 15 years.

"Together, we have learned that an investment in energy-efficient technology is an investment in America's tomorrow; that when we conserve energy, we energize the economy; that when we invest in the environment, we are creating jobs and building the America our children will inherit."

Whether you believe in climate change or consider it hype really shouldn't matter to your business planning process. It is critical to divorce yourself from basal opinions and consider how the environmental movement can be incorporated into your company's SWOT analysis.