From Earth Day to Earth Week to Sustainable Environmental Practices

posted by Boyd Neil

By Liz Purchia is an account executive in H&K’s public affairs group in Washington D.C.

Last Tuesday was Earth Day and for many organizations, Hill & Knowlton included, it turned into Earth Week. 

Everywhere you looked from clothing stores to TV stations to global corporations, people were championing the environment, offering environmental tips and discounts on eco-friendly products. In our Washington, D.C. office Hill & Knowlton handed out free reusable water bottles and tote bags to every employee to cut back on the amount of waste we produce.

I found myself logging on to various Web sites, signing up for petitions and learning tools that I can use to curb my environmentally harmful habits.

Sustaining Environmental Energy

I work on a lot of energy and environmental issues for clients in D.C. and what I’m wondering is now that Earth Day is over, what’s going to happen? Has everyone done their part for the year?

Recently, President Bush outlined the administration’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.  As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said, “We can’t wait until 2025 to deal with greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). That is too late, that is dangerously late, that is doing nothing.

The Warner-Lieberman bill, scheduled for debate in the Senate calls for halting growth in GHG emissions starting in 2012, 13 years earlier than the president proposes.

All three presidential candidates, Sens. McCain (R-AZ), Clinton (D-NY), and Obama (D-IL) support mandatory limits on GHG and are advocating a much more aggressive climate change platform. But with the election year, there’s very little chance that much will get done in terms of environmental policy.

Everyone’s looking to see what others are doing to support the environment and to reduce their environmental impacts. Before hiring us, some potential clients are even looking to see what Hill & Knowlton is doing as a company to address climate change.

Environmental Sustainability as Business Opportunity

In February, I was on a Hill & Knowlton exchange program in Brussels where we were the exclusive PR partner for the European Business Summit. The focus of this year’s event was “Greening the Economy,” underlining that the environment can become a business opportunity.

The U.S. can take a few notes from European businesses, which have incorporated environmental plans into their business models for many years. We can support our economy through green practices. What’s good for the environment can and should be good for business.

I recently read a New York Times article, “Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar” in which Jerome Ringo, president of the Apollo Alliance predicted that the U.S. could generate between three million to five million more green jobs over the next 10 years. Van Jones of Green for All is quoted in the article as saying that green jobs “cannot be easily outsourced…If we are going to weatherize buildings, they have to be weatherized here…If you put up solar panels, you can’t ship a building to Asia and have them put the solar panels on and ship it back. These jobs have to be done in the United States.”

As clients come to us to help shape their business and communications plans, inserting environmental practices will be beneficial to their business, their potential business and employees.

The market needs companies to adopt environmental practices. It may just be monitoring data center usage, improving energy efficient technologies or turning off the lights on weekends, but making a commitment to the environment means making a commitment to sound sustainable business practices.

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