Green Trend Forecasting

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The following article was published by Shawn Hesse, with Emersion Design and the 2008 Chair of the USGBC Cincinnati Chapter.

Over the course of the last 8 years, Green talk has infiltrated everything. The number of ”Green Building” articles in newspapers has jumped from around 1,000 per year in 2000 to more than 9,000 in 2007. More cities and states are adopting green building incentives and policies (like Cincinnati and Ohio). Much of this has been attributed to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Rating system and its success. The USGBC has had a huge impact on the building industry as membership in the organization has grown by 50% every year for the last ten years. But there is something much larger at work in our world than the impact of LEED. Companies ranging from Wal-Mart to Starbucks are touting their sustainability initiatives, and it isn’t just limited to the United States. There are now Green Building Councils in twelve countries on five continents. Somewhere along the way, ‘green’ has crossed the line between a fad and a movement.

Motivations for companies going green vary widely, and aside from the obvious motivation of saving the planet, many organizations have gone green to save money, or even to simply improve their public image. Still others have started talking green just to ride the wave of dollars following as customers seek greener products, vehicles, homes, and offices. So what’s next? Amidst the green buzz, here are several trends in the green movement that visionary businesses should be preparing for.

The first green trend and the reason LEED has been successful, is third party verification. In a time when Chevron and BP make commercials about their sustainability missions, and green-washing claims like ‘all natural’ are everywhere, it is important to have verifiable definitions for what green really is. For buildings, that is LEED, but there are many other important third party verifications for the rest of our lives and businesses. The International Organization for Standardization is developing the 14000 series of ISO standards to define vocabulary and validate processes for product manufacturing and environmental impact management.

The second trend related to going green is rising energy costs. This should go without saying, but energy will only get more expensive before and if it ever gets cheaper. A comparison between investing the same amount of money in the S&P 500 or in energy efficiency for your building puts it all in perspective. Over the last ten years, the S&P 500 Index Fund has increased 36.8% while energy costs have risen 300%.

The phrase ”Blue collar jobs to Green collar jobs” is one of the hottest topics for politicians, and represents the third trend. With the global push for sustainability, the need for solar panel manufacturing and installing, wind turbine manufacturing, green product manufacturing, and an endless list of sustainable business opportunities justifies the name ”the Next Industrial Revolution”.

Finally, savvy businesses recognize that by embracing sustainability at their core, employees will be proud to work there. When your job and your company is about more than just making widgets, a sense of loyalty and pride is inevitable, and as ‘Generation Y’ takes hold in the workforce, with their notorious ‘job-hopping’ tendencies, it is even more important for employers to recognize the recruitment potential of going green before their competitors do.

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