Today I received a "Sustainability Report" from the Indian conglomerate; ITC Limited.
I've become accustomed to seeing long-term corporate vision statements about becoming "Carbon Neutral" and so I was stunned to see that ITC claims to be the world's only major "Carbon positive" and "Water Positive" corporation. That's really amazing. (The company could be even greener if they emailed me a PDF instead of printing the report and sending it to me via DHL).
[On a side note, I'm also amazed at the diversity of business units in India's major companies – some major Indian companies seem to be involved in everything from hospitality to information technology. Can you imagine checking into an HP hotel?]
As I read through ITC's sustainability report, I started to wonder what the recession will do to companies' Green initiatives. I remember that when I was at university in the UK during the late 80s and early 90s, there seemed to be a "greenwash" fashion in advertising. Companies wanted to convince consumers of their environmentally friendly credentials. (Whether there was any substance to their claims is another matter). But then the recession started to bite and consumers became more interested in getting bargains than they were in doing business with companies that respected the planet. Good bye to green and all that for a few years…
Today, Greenpeace publishes a guide to greener electronics for consumers. But will consumers be interested in "green" during this recession? My guess is that "cheap" will matter more than "green". Many companies are achieving significant economies by adopting green ways of doing business — proving that green and frugal can go hand in hand. But the lower costs of energy and other commodities will make it harder (in the short term) to justify investments aimed at reducing the consumption of those resources. We're already seeing reports that the recycling industry is in peril because of the falling value of all commodities.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the importance of "green" in this recession. Will consumers stop caring? Will companies stop investing? Or will we continue to push forward with initiatives that reduce carbon footprints and save us money in the long term?