Should Corporate Boards Promote Green Purchasing?

July 16, 2009
Many corporate boards have yet to identify practical and cost-effective ways of turning their noble aspirations into concrete outcomes.

While corporate boards often voice lofty goals for social responsibility and efforts to address climate change, there is a "wide and growing gap" between these aspirations and corporate actions, according to Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas, a business consultant and professor at the University of Lincoln.

"Many corporate boards would like to contribute to combating environmental challenges and climate change, but they have yet to identify practical and cost-effective ways of turning their noble aspirations into concrete outcomes that will help to save the planet," Coulson-Thomas told the Global Convention on Climate Security in Palampur, India recently. "At the same time, many consumers do not fully understand the differing environmental impacts of alternative options."

Professor Colin Coulson-Thomas

Coulson-Thomas raised the issue of whether corporate boards should accept the responsibility for making customers more aware of the consequences of their buying decisions. "Should directors take steps to encourage and enable more responsible and less harmful purchasing?" he asked.

Coulson-Thomas noted there were support tools now available to companies that can help people to make more responsible purchasing decisions by enabling them to make selections based on environmental impact.

Companies should re-orient their attitudes to climate change to view it as an opportunity, not simply a challenge. "Understanding impacts and consequences, especially negative ones, is a first step towards reviewing and developing one's portfolio of offerings, and being more transparent," he says. "Working with customers and prospects in this process can help to build more mutually beneficial and longer-lasting relationships with them."

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Steve Minter | Steve Minter, Executive Editor

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An award-winning editor, Executive Editor Steve Minter covers leadership, global economic and trade issues and energy, tackling subject matter ranging from CEO profiles and leadership theories to economic trends and energy policy. As well, he supervises content development for editorial products including the magazine,, research and information products, and conferences.

Before joining the IW staff, Steve was publisher and editorial director of Penton Media’s EHS Today, where he was instrumental in the development of the Champions of Safety and America’s Safest Companies recognition programs.

Steve received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College. He is married and has two adult children.

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