Driving change or waiting for change – that is the question

“There is no business on a dead planet!” Petter A. Stordalen, owner of Scandinavia’s largest hotel group Nordic Choice, often leads off his speeches with this blunt statement. Since Petter enjoys doing business, he is concerned. “If there is a chance that our planet will die, then why sit around and wait for it to happen?” That’s how I read Petter. To me it’s obvious that too many of us actually do sit around. Why do we do that, and what are we expecting to happen?

In ECOHZ we have decided not to wait for any one. We have coined a vision which I’m extremely proud of. This reads “changing energy behavior”. Using these three words as guidance, we have set forth to change not only how ECOHZ is perceived and how we as employees act, but we also proudly believe we can promote positive change among customers, suppliers, interest groups and governmental institutions.

“Come on, what about a quick reality check”, you might say. “A small company with 16 employees, located in a non-descript corner of the world, cannot realistically fill such big shoes”.

I and the rest of ECOHZ believe this is wrong. And we decided to start with ourselves. First of all our core business is about promoting the use of renewable energy; something easily seen as having a positive impact. Next, we decided to force ourselves to be systematic and ambitious, and worked hard to receive our ISO 14001 certification. As a consequence we have decided that “sustainability will have key impact on all relevant decision-making in the organization”.

To make “the formal stuff” come alive – all employees were challenged to contribute in one of three work groups – energy, transport and consumption/waste.

“So far”, you might say, “there is not much to brag about”. And you’re right. It’s when we turn around and look what actually came out, it becomes interesting.

In ECOHZ no one drives a car to work. We reduced our office related energy consumption by 20% in one year. We require all new suppliers to document an active environmental policy. No travel reimbursement is paid, before CO2 impact is calculated for a given trip. A new company auditor – from Big 5 – was chosen, partly based on “eco profile”. 100% of all detergents and cleaning “utensils” in our office are non-toxic and eco-labeled. And there is more. We print on two sides of every page, we sort garbage and we choose the train when we can. Oh yeah, we also changed our printing company to ensure FSC certification, and we are proud to finance a complete solar power installation providing clean energy to the village Health Clinic in Mitandi, Uganda.

Yes, these are still small steps. Will they save the world from “the climate doom”? Of course not.

But let’s say we can scale these efforts, either by inspiring others to copy, or use the power of the supply chain. What if some thousand companies saved 20% energy each? Or what if the same companies decide to only choose suppliers that can document reductions in their CO2 emissions? Or if one thousand village Health Clinics were guaranteed clean and cheap solar power. Would that have an impact?

It’s fun to do business. It’s even more fun to do business while making change happen.