As a small green business owner, I particpated in an eco-preneurship panel at the Rowan University Sustainability Conference on April 3. Business leaders working in the area of sustainability shared their accomplishments and challenges with the students and faculty in connection with this Principles for Responsible Management Education intiative.

There was no “greenwashing” there.  The companies, large and small, showed that they had a serious commitment to sustainability, way beyond recycling and choosing eco-friendly paper products.   The eco-prenuers were generally small companies primarily focused on meeting the market demand for green goods and services.  The large established companies were focused on improving operations and products.  DuPont reported on its progression from being the #1 polluter to trying to “do less bad” and finally to now “trying to do more good.”  Domino Sugar spoke of its plant in Florida where electricity is generated using bagasse – sugar cane fiber waste as well as the introduction of carbon footprint free sugar in some markets.  Ernst and Young reported saving $100 million by banning bottled water and has eliminated the use of 4 million disposable cups per year.  A regional flooring company spoke of their manufacturing model where the volume of waste consumed is greater than the waste produced.

It was very encouraging to see the serious commitment that these corporations have made to moving toward more sustainable operations: they have created and filled the position of corporate sustainability manager to lead the effort; they have gone through a process of re-examining their own operations, they have set goals and started implementation of sustainability improvement measures, and they have pressed their suppliers to do the same.  Best of all, every business reported that they found economic benefits in their implementation of these sustainability improvements.