Thursday, June 30, 2011

Building a Sustainable Future

Joe Burns
Environmental Studies
PHS 100A
Warner Pacific College
June 28, 2011

Building a Sustainable Future
About five years ago I bought a hybrid automobile. I would like to say that I bought it because of my concern for the environment, but honestly my purchase was primarily driven by economics. With gas prices rising and not much hope for those prices falling, the job I had at the time required me to drive to work each day which ended up being a round trip distance of about 30 miles a day. I drove a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), and the amount of money I was spending each week on gas was much more than I would have liked to spend. Hybrid cars get much better gas mileage than non-hybrid autos, so I made a decision to go “green” for economic reasons. Actually, the hybrid SUV I purchased was higher priced than the non-hybrid model, which nearly swayed me away from buying the hybrid. The point I am attempting to make with this story is that it is extremely important that businesses (with the help of government intervention) find ways to develop sustainable (green) products and resources that are not only the environmentally friendly choice, but also the most inexpensive alternative.
Many times the “bottom line” is the primary factor when making a decision. This definitely comes into play when making environmental decisions. Sometimes going “green” is not the prudent choice to make for individuals. If a person is given the option to purchase a hybrid or electric car, in the same style and condition as a gas-powered model, that person would likely select the former. Unfortunately, the hybrid and electric models are still more expensive than the gas-powered models. According to Mike Van Nieuwkuyk, director of global vehicle research at J.D. Power and Associates,"The bottom line is that most consumers want to be green, but not if there is a significant personal cost to them." (Valdes-Dapena, 2011). More and more automakers are introducing new hybrid models and electric models. 31 of these models existed in 2009, but come 2016 there is expected to be 159, including models from every major auto manufacturer. However, despite the escalating gas prices, and the push to be more environmentally conscious, market research predicts that hybrid and electric cars will make up less than 10% of new car sales through 2016. (Valdes-Dapena, 2011).
Just as organically grown foods are generally more expensive than non-organic foods, purchasing green products, or converting to renewable energy sources can at times be the more costly alternative, especially when there is major renovation needed to accommodate the environmentally conscious choice, such as a business or homeowner installing solar panels to replace other non-renewable energy sources. In the long run, the choice to go “green” could be more economically favorable, but for small businesses or people on a tight budget, making this switch is not even an option. It is important that the government support this commitment by offering tax incentives to individuals who make the environmentally safe selection, and offer similar tax breaks to companies that invest in research and development of sustainable products that are also affordable to the general public.
Instead of using billions of dollars of government funding to bail out banks and lending institutions who have negligently squandered the fortunes of their companies, I would much rather see that money used to reward organizations who are committed to creating products and resources that are of the greater good to our planet, and generations of people. These tax incentives would need to be tied to not only sustainability, but affordability. In a recent survey of 280 senior executives at global corporations, 88% of the respondents stated “sustainability will be important for their firms in the coming three years.” However, 44% said “immediate financial goals are an obstacle to sustainability.” (The Economist, 2011). There are already tax incentives for individuals and businesses that buy or lease a new hybrid gas-electric car or truck. Tax breaks are also given to individuals and businesses that build energy-efficient homes or buildings, or utilize certain energy-efficient products. (Blue Egg, 2010). I have not heard much about tax breaks that allow companies to develop affordable environmentally friendly products.
Another key stipulation for these incentives is that the companies must develop, manufacture, produce, etc. these products in the United States. With our nation’s current economic woes, and high unemployment rates there needs to be significant tax penalties for companies that outsource segments of their business to countries that have a lower-cost of living. Also, by outsourcing business segments, these corporations could be conducting their business operations in countries that do not comply with U.S. environmental policy. By incentivizing American companies to run their business operations on American soil, the U.S. economy will prosper and the environment will likely be better protected, or at least regulated properly.
Through this course I have become much more aware of the environment and have realized that there are many things that I can do, as little as they may be, to help protect our biosphere, and these things take nothing more than a little time and effort. As a business major, moving towards getting my Master’s degree, I would love to work for an organization that is committed to sustainability. With my extensive background working in quality and compliance areas within health care organizations, and having a strong interest and passion for process improvement projects, the potential for opportunities throughout the business world are numerous.

Valdes-Dapena, P. (2011, April, 17). CNN Money. “Green cars are ready, car buyers aren't”.
Retrieved from:
Blue Egg. (2010). “Tax Credits for Green Purchases”. Retrieved from:
The Economist. (2011, February, 11). “The sustainable future. Promoting growth through
sustainability”. Retrieved from:

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