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“Green is the color of money,” Hunter Lovins (left) said during a Green Week dialogue with Kellogg Dean Sally Blount.

“Green is the color of money,” Hunter Lovins (left) said during a Green Week dialogue with Kellogg Dean Sally Blount.

Green Week 2011

Sustainability expert Hunter Lovins and Dean Sally Blount talk about what it really means for businesses to go green

By Brady Gervais

5/2/2011 - Businesses that ignore sustainability issues do so at their own peril, green-business pioneer Hunter Lovins told Kellogg students April 27.

Studies suggest that sustainable businesses have the fastest-growing stock value, Lovins said. She cited a report that indicated that even in a down economy, sustainably-focused companies outperformed their competitors in 16 of the 18 industries studied.

Lovins’ remarks came during a keynote conversation with Dean Sally Blount during Kellogg’s Green Week. The series of events also featured sessions on the future of the food industry, the prospects for clean energy and how to build consumer value through sustainability.

“Business is the dominant institution of our age. That has good things about it and not-so-good things about it,” Blount said. To ensure the future sustainability and vitality of the global economy, business leaders must determine how to factor environmental tradeoffs into the business equation, she added.

To be considered a sustainable company, Lovins said, a business should follow the three principles of “natural capitalism”:
  • buying time by using resources more productively; 
  • redesigning industrial processes to do business as nature does; 
  • and managing the institution to be restorative of natural and human capital.

In essence, a business focused on sustainability makes a values-based, good-faith effort be more productive and create less waste, Lovins said.

Lovins, Newsweek’s "Green Business Icon” in 2009 and author of the 1999 bestseller Natural Capitalism, was asked whether there is a less polarizing framework than global warming to get businesses to focus on sustainability. She said businesses are free to believe climate change is a hoax.

“You don’t have to believe in the problem to believe in the solution,” she said. “If it turns out it’s a hoax, you’ve made a lot of money. If it turns out it’s a problem, you’ve made a lot of money — oh, and you’ve solved the problem. Green is the color of money.”