My colleagues and I at GreenBiz.com have just published State of Green Business 2008, an accounting for how, and how much, the greening of business is moving the needle on environmental issues.
The simple answer: not much — and certainly not enough.
I'd been thinking about this report for a good five years, but it was only last year that my team and I got to it. Probably a good thing: The state of data on business and the environment likely wouldn't have been sufficient in previous years to accomplish this.
The free, 64-page report includes the top green business stories of the year just passed — a lengthy piece I'd previously debuted in this blog (see here, for example). But the heart of the report is the GreenBiz Index, a set of 20 indicators of progress on the greening of business.
It began with a simple question: With all that's been going on in this arena — all of the things I write about here, and the 1,000 or so news stories we reported last year on GreenBiz.com, ClimateBiz.com, GreenerBuildings.com, and GreenerComputing.com — what was the actual impact? Was all this activity actually moving the needle on climate change? Was it reducing our use of energy, water, and materials? Was it making any difference?
We set out to find out.
It was extraordinarily difficult, one of the more challenging exercises I've been through. The quantity and quality of available data were wanting, to say the least. Some of the things we set out to measure weren't possible — for example, it turns out there's no current data on the use of water by business and industry in the United States, the focus of our inquiry. In other cases, we had to cobble together our own indices, such as piecing together the quantity of materials - cardboard, aluminum, steel, and glass - used for packaging.
But the effort was worth it. We believe that the GreenBiz Index represents the best accounting of business progress on the environment.
Of course, I'll look forward to your comments. We'll be updating this annually.
The report is free, downloadable here.