U professor talks green business

A U professor spoke on the push for sustainable companies.

Erica Mahoney

For many businesses, going green can help more than just the environment. 
 
Alfred Marcus, a University of Minnesota strategic management and entrepreneurship professor, spoke Wednesday at the University’s Institute on the Environment about how competition drives today’s businesses to create greener images. 
 
Marcus’ book, “Innovations in Sustainability: Fuel and Food,” was published in August and examines competitors that have switched to environmentally friendly 
policies over the years.  
 
“Many companies today either have goals to reduce their carbon emissions or are counting what their emissions are, and this was not true previously,” Marcus said. 
 
For example, Kellogg’s and General Mills acquired environmentally friendly subsidiaries to improve their image, Marcus said. 
 
Although businesses’ attention to sustainability has vastly improved over the past 20 years, government regulations could speed up progress, Marcus said.  
 
“There’s nobody forcing anybody to do anything; it’s all voluntary in nature,” he said. “If there’s a reason why companies are doing this, it’s because of reputational gain and their need for legitimacy and public acceptance.”
 
Businesses’ prominent role in society amplifies their impact when they create green policies, said Sam Hanson, sustainability program director at the Environmental Initiative, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps businesses enact earth-friendly practices. 
 
“Not only is it good for us as a society but it’s good for them for a variety of reasons,” Hanson said. “Various sustainability efforts can save businesses money, make them more efficient and can improve the the quality of the work environment.”
 
Hanson said businesses benefit more from having a culture that promotes sustainability than they do by setting a specific goal. 
 
“Not having a specific goal provides the business community with a space to really be creative and try to determine how a lot of different things can make a very big difference over a short period of time and for the long-term future,” he said. 
 
Hanson said the Twin Cities often gets overlooked as a leader in sustainability efforts.
 
“We have a really strong basis for addressing sustainability issues and creating an environmentally friendly region, but I don’t know that it’s always recognized,” he said.