On Earth Day 2009 (April 22), the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay took a big step to reaffirm the environmental credentials that earned the school the nickname “Eco U” at its founding 40 years ago.
The Green Innovations 2009 symposium, hosted by the University’s new Environmental Management and Business Institute, showed dozens of area business leaders the value of integrating sustainable business practices at their companies to increase profitability.
“This is not a tree-hugger issue anymore,” keynote speaker and noted sustainability expert Bob Willard said. “This is a financial and investment issue. Investors are interested in ‘green’ companies.”
Companies that take stock in the idea of “being green” can expect to see an improved corporate image, an energized workforce, competitive advantages in the marketplace and an immediate leg up on being well positioned for the future, Willard said. Efficiencies are created, recruiting costs are reduced, energy is saved, waste is reduced or recycled, insurance and borrowing rates are improved, productivity is increased and more income is a result, all by being more sustainable, Willard added.
It is his experience that smaller businesses that practice sustainability techniques can see profits increase more than 66 percent in five years, Willard said. Larger companies (with more than 500 employees) can see profits increase close to 40 percent in that time frame.
“It’s flat-out smart business,” he said.
UW-Green Bay’s launch of the new institute is a major step toward strengthening the University’s leadership position in the promotion of environmental awareness and eco-friendly initiatives. The establishment of EMBI is a step in the evolution of UW-Green Bay’s historic mission of studying environmental issues and developing solutions to problems; solutions that recognize the critical interconnections between science, policy and business, and the social contexts within which they occur.
University officials say EMBI will strive to work with public- and private-sector partners throughout the Northeastern Wisconsin to make the New North region synonymous with sustainability and environmental leadership.
“CEOs in Northeastern Wisconsin don’t see this green movement as a fad,” said keynote speaker Larry Weyers, executive chairman of Integrys Energy Group. “Seventy-eight percent of CEOs think it’s here to stay.”
Helping businesses develop opportunities to reduce their environmental impact while increasing profitability is good for business. Today’s public view has evolved to where “good business” is not only profitable, but is also recognized for good stewardship of the environment.
“EMBI will improve the understanding of these issues and improve the minds of those that will address these issues,” Weyers said. “UW-Green Bay is poised to lead efforts for a sustainable future.”