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Sustainable Business Introduction

Also visit U.S. DOE's Industrial Technologies Program

It is increasingly evident that business and industry's current patterns of consumption and production are not sustainable. The enormous economic and population growth worldwide over the last four decades have together driven the impacts that threaten the health and well-being of our communities and nations -- ozone depletion, climate change, depletion and fouling of natural resources, and extensive loss of biodiversity and habitat.

The standard approaches in the past to the environmental problems generated by business and industry have been regulatory driven "end-of-the-pipe" remediation efforts. This approach has created limited success in the last twenty years, but as economic development continues and grows in intensity, new and complex problems abound.

Leaders in business, government, academia, public-interest organizations, and communities are responding with innovative new solutions to sustainability issues in business and industry. Corporations such as Interface, Inc. and Nike, as well as small businesses such as A.O.K. Auto Body and Vic's Market, are progressing beyond simple regulatory compliance in favor of more proactive roles in finding solutions to sustainability issues.

The Department of Energy is supporting such innovation through programs like National Industrial Competitiveness Through Energy, Environment, and Economics (NICE3), which offers grants to develop technologies that can help companies cut costs, prevent pollution, and conserve energy. Additionally, non-profits such as The Natural Step, The Future 500, and the Rocky Mountain Institute are helping firms chart a course and make strides toward sustainability.

Perhaps the single most influential factor that is beginning to emerge among business and industry is the realization that waste reduction, energy efficiency, and pollution prevention make economic sense. Companies are starting to understand that sustainability involves substantially more than an ethical consideration -- it can improve the bottom line and is an integral part of good business. See "Does it Really Pay to Be Green? An Empirical Study of Firm Environmental and Financial Performance." (PDF)

The links and resources compiled in the Sustainable Business section will help your company and community understand the great challenges and promising solutions for business and industry in achieving sustainability.

Last updated: May 6, 2004

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