Can you get a return from investment (ROI) from green business practices? Is the time you spend on them—conceiving them, putting them into practice, tracking their effectiveness—ultimately worth it? Or do they take too much time away from your real job of getting products and services out to customers and powering growth for your business? In this issue, we look at companies that are implementing sustainability practices—and we examine the topic of management excellence, which is the next level beyond operational excellence for managers who understand that they need to be able to make better business decisions and ensure that their businesses are flexible and agile enough to respond to customer needs more quickly.
But how does sustainability fit into management excellence? Often companies will use the same tools for both efforts. Enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions, which combine business intelligence tools, performance management software, and data warehousing, will provide managers with the insight they need to make better decisions and drive better results throughout the organization. And EPM systems will also provide companies with real intelligence about the ROI of sustainability efforts, allowing a business to understand the pluses and minuses of activities aimed at benefiting the company and local communities—not to mention the planet. Too transformative, you say? The fact is, issues of sustainability can no longer be ignored. Two years ago, green was everywhere—but the media seemed more interested than businesses. Ten years ago it was the province of the few socially conscious companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and Working Assets. But now, governments, businesses, and consumers all have a stance on green, and even people who haven’t been concerned about environmental issues care about high-energy costs and the impact those costs have on all budgets.
We’re in an era now that reminds me of the early days of the internet boom. The late ’90s in Silicon Valley was an intensely optimistic time, with people becoming millionaires overnight and new Web sites and technologies bursting into existence every few moments. Today, there’s the same focus and concentration—and if you want a dose of that same optimism, check out the Web site for the Energy Foundation (www.ef.org), a partnership of major donors committed to solving the world’s energy problems. Also, if you’re coming to Oracle OpenWorld, September 21 through 25, you’ll find it’s our greenest show ever, with a much smaller printed agenda, a Green Room where you can learn about techniques to help your business become greener, and guidelines for vendors and service providers that will ensure more sustainable food options, show floor giveaways, and transportation options—just for starters.
Margaret Terry Lindquist is editor in chief of Profit magazine.