Usually there are lots of news covering how some business hurt an industry reputation and the environment around it. There are the amount of bad news over it, people forget sometimes to look for the good ones, the exception and innovative ones. It does not need to be this way, and we can have a mind change over this issue and list some quite positive things happening and how they are going.
Should we always expect regulation as the only way corporations respect consumers, their industry and the environment?
I don’t believe so. Those are needed sometimes and this varies globally as cultural, economic, social and political scenario acts differently in several places. And what if markets start self-regulating with increasing standards and volunteered participation from industry? To develop better processes, materials and operating standards?
Well, this happens for some quite long time in building industry along with its supply chain. The green building movement has more than 20 years and is a good example of how certifications aligned with volunteer participation and a dose of market demand can make it last. The green building certification programs like LEED from USGBC most used in Americas, BREEAM in Europe, Green Globes from Canada among others, are set to make not only buildings themselves less demanding on natural resources but to transform sourcing providers and improve occupants life and productivity.
Most known program, LEED, is consensus based and its participation is optional. Member companies and steering committees will design and envolve standards together to make better use of resources. Not only direct people involved in building design and construction are affected but the whole supply chain. Customers are asking more about the environmental and social impact of the products they buy. Companies are listening to them and working on bringing more products and solutions. For green building business this means supply chain can today not only offer better energy and water systems but also building, finishing and furniture materials. New projects seeking certification will need to need to focus more on materials starting with LEED v4. Also, indoor environmental quality which is closed related with materials and quality of work environment will be used more over next few years as companies design newer office spaces. So, few changes I am seeing right now.
More responsible supply chain
Expect to see more FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood requests from building constructors, Green-E providers for RECs and carbon offsets purchases (both from companies and their suppliers as they are required to reduce impact on their operations) and other office materials like carpets, painting, furniture and furnishing to be audited and checked for their impacts on extraction, processing, shipping and reuse, recycling or taking back. Products extracted from questionable sources such as polluting ones, based on slavery or exploration of poor communities will suffer social media exposition and so the manufactures that buy raw or processed material from them. Those who can change early will have a better positioning and experience doing their part and auditing sources or looking for third party certification entities. I believe this shift slowly to more consensual practice than something mandated from law.
Products will be analyzed for their life cycle impact not only on extraction and logistics but on health impact over installation. US Health Product Declaration and European REACH codes for chemicals will help choosing less damage causing substances. If at first some of those replacement cost more, eventually they be sought by public even if not on legislation because corporations cannot hide it from public and many are truly changing their culture for the better. Another good outcome is that new business on the third-party certification will growth to help manufactures safer with their products and increase their reputation and sales value.
More engagement from the public
We can expect more participation from the public in their desires to see a better and less impacts on world resources. People working for corporations all sizes will see some examples such as location of their offices, specially in green buildings, how their furniture is responsible produced and reused or discarded. New markets will be created and we will see positive shift on the world labor market. There will always be things and process to improve which is opportunity for entrepreneurs in small and larger corporations.
In the end, corporations can and are shifting to a self-regulating standards (there are quite some old guilds around the world) which will help with reputation and marketability. While we cannot say tight legislation is a thing of the past, a better balance over it and industry value standards seem to be getting clear ahead.