Reduce. Reuse. Replace.

by Aaron Lazenby, May 2011

Three words, otherwise known as the “waste hierarchy,” have been bouncing around in my head as the editorial staff researched and wrote the stories contained in the May 2011 issue of Profit.

Maybe it’s because I’m a child of that era, but edicts to reduce, reuse, and recycle have defined my view of environmental responsibility. And while there are many more-complex and more-detailed models for executing and managing corporate sustainability programs, the simple waste hierarchy still offers a good framework for strategic thinking on the subject, with replace as a substitute for recycle.

Reduce. From what I learned this issue, reduce is pretty much synonymous with “improving efficiency”—and represents the fastest path to mitigating a company’s environmental impact. For example, managers can reduce the energy associated with logistics by using technology to optimize shipments (see “Shipping More with Less”). Or, they can switch from paper-based reporting to a cloud-based solution and eliminate tons of printed material from existing processes (see “Expert Reporting”). In either case, reduce requires smart managers to look at established processes and remove obvious inefficiencies.

Reuse. This insight comes from an unexpected mind-set: looking at existing enterprise systems and tuning them to do the work of sustainability. Jon Chorley, vice president of supply chain and sustainability product strategy at Oracle, shares his systems reuse strategy in his interview (see “Within Your Power”), and Denmark’s DONG Energy put that plan into action by tuning Oracle Hyperion financial management applications to track greenhouse gas emissions (see “Sustainable Energy”). While some may “greenwash” enterprise solutions to capture attention, many sustainability tracking and management functions are already built into core enterprise IT functions.

Replace. While it might differ from what to do with your empty soda cans, replace makes more sense for the enterprise. It means supplanting outmoded systems and processes with modern, efficient solutions. IT-driven businesses might look to swap outdated servers in the data center for newer, less-power-hungry machines. Oracle’s “Cash for Clunkers” program was designed for just that reason: to help customers scrap costly and inefficient servers in favor of Oracle’s SPARC Enterprise M8000 and M9000 products.

Reduce. Reuse. Replace. It’s about more than altruism—it’s about smart business.

Aaron Lazenby
Editor in chief, Profit