Taking a Position
So what does living in New Jersey, joining Philips Consumer Electronics and conducting business with Wal-Mart have in common? All three have confronted the increasing need to address our environmental issues directly. New Jersey started its recycling programs many years ago and residents must comply or their trash will not be collected. Philips’ dedication to environmental sustainability is unmatched, requiring licensees and employees to back the company’s dedication. And finally, Wal-mart has turned a reactive business posture into an aggressive strategic position of being a leader in pushing environmental sustainability.
Living in all three worlds makes it clear to me that we will have no option but to decide how to deal with growing environmental issues. From a business perspective, this means we can ride with the increasing public consciousness by making a statement that our company is committed to preserving the environment or we can simply comply with the requirements. Overall, the decision would seem obvious to the general business community, but there are factors that make it a bit more difficult.
For one, there are costs for pursuing environmental sustainability. I first learned these lessons as a licensee of Philips. Converting from PVC to PET clamshells carried a 25 percent premium in costs. Furthermore, using PET results in a less appealing package. Added costs and less attractive packaging make it tough to compete when retailers give you no credit for being environmentally sensitive.