Charleston Regional Development Alliance

Berkeley, Charleston & Dorchester Counties

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Awards can help businesses catch 'sustainable' fever

Sep. 1, 2005
Charleston Regional Business Journal
By Dennis Quick
The Sustainable Charleston Awards will be held Sept. 20 at the Charleston Riverview Hotel. Now in their second year, the awards honor businesses that have shown excellence in energy efficiency, waste/emission reduction, workplace environment and other categories healthful to employees and the environment.

Last year’s award winners were JW Aluminum in Berkeley County and Palladio Homes in Mount Pleasant.

By lowering natural gas consumption in its scrap aluminum melting furnaces, JW Aluminum saved more than $1 million in operational costs. The company was Sustainable Charleston’s overall-achievement winner.

Palladio Homes, Sustainable Charleston’s product-development winner, built the region’s first certified U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star homes on Daniel Island. Energy Star is a government program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through energy efficiency. Palladio’s homes annually generate energy savings of 20% to 30% compared with traditionally built homes.

Presented by the College of Charleston’s master of environmental studies program, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Sustainability Institute in North Charleston, the Sustainable Charleston Awards are helping spark interest in sustainability.

And why wouldn’t businesses be interested?

Sustainability is more than mere “tree-hugging.” It is about achieving what environmentalists call the triple bottom line—economic, environmental and social prosperity.

Even for business owners focusing strictly on the green of the U.S. dollar (although they had better pay attention to the green of our environment to avoid legal fees), sustainable business practices can make those cherished greenbacks more plentiful.

Workplaces with clean air, natural lighting and nontoxic furnishings tend to have healthy employees. Last time I checked, healthy employees out-produce sick ones every time.

Businesses that keep the air, water and soil clean contribute to their employees’ health and the health of future, employable generations.

Building materials that reduce heating, lighting and ventilating bills cut down on a company’s operational costs.

OK, so what I’ve said is straight out of a Dick and Jane environmental primer. But somewhere along the line, U.S. industrialists either forgot the primer or ignored it as they plunged headfirst into production at all costs.

In the process, they polluted the planet and ran their operation costs straight through the vanishing ozone layer. It took so-called tree-huggers to remind the suits that Earth is the only hangout we have, that what there is of it is finite and if it goes, so do companies, profits, stock portfolios—everything and everyone.

The Institute for Market Transformation to Sustainability, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of manufacturers, environmental groups and state and local government leaders, has found that sustainable products and buildings are more profitable than conventional ones because of reduced liability, fewer regulatory constraints, faster product development and delivery to market, reduced raw materials and manufacturing costs, and a growing public demand for sustainable products.

Slowly but surely, companies nationwide are turning green, and the Sustainable Charleston Awards are a sign that Lowcountry businesses are adopting that environmental, business-savvy color.
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