There's a remarkable graph in the first chapter of Andrew Winston's book "Green to Gold." It's the kind graph that would likely capture the attention of the most skeptical of CEOs who has discounted the growing interest in more sustainable, greener business practices as little more than the a passing trend, the "blood-type diet" of the corporate world.
But sustainability certainly isn't just a new and passing trend; like eating right and getting exercise, it's the real deal. Many companies have been enjoying the benefits for years, but others are struggling to understand just how to embrace it.
If you fall into that group and you're going to be at the now-greener Interop this week, good news: Winston will be leading a panel on Wednesday, May 23 called "Green to Gold : Eco-Advantage Strategies for a Changing IT." Joined by executives from Intel, Yahoo, Sun, HP, and Google, the group will talking about the business case for embracing greener practices, what to expect in the future -- and the top 10 things IT departments can do.
But back to that graph I mentioned: In "Green to Gold," Winston and co-author Daniel C. Esty identify 100 companies they call WaveRiders: Companies that are riding the "green wave," acting as "environmental leaders [that] see their businesses through an environmental lens, finding opportunities to cut costs, reduce risk, drive revenues, and enhance intangible value." Not surprisingly, among them are IT giants like HP and IBM, as well as Dell, Intel, and Xerox.
Here's the result (click to enlarge it): As you can see, the WaveRiders consistently beat the others.
Of course, that's not to say that "being eco-friendly" means your company's going to thrive, and high stock performance isn't necessarily a direct result of environmental consciousness. Winston and Esty are clear on those points in "Green to Gold."
But they also note that "a number of studies have demonstrated that environmental performance is a powerful indicator of overall management quality."
The WaveRiders have, at least to a degree, found ways to circumvent some of the obstacles Winston told me about, and that he discusses in his book.
One of the challenges: changing corporate culture to keep up with new green objectives. Winston describes a phenomenon he calls the middle-management squeeze: The high-level execs announce that the company is going green. The lower-level employees get excited. But the middle managers are tasked with these new environmental goals, lumped on top of their old goals. "Reconciling those goals is very challenging. [Upper managers] don't change the culture. They don't build it into any incentive programs. They just say they're going to become green. It's a problem."