Mar 312010

In the previous post of this series, I provided an overview of the book Green to Gold by Daniel C. Esty and Andrew S. Winston, and suggested that it may be one of the best books available if you are looking for practical advice on environmental strategy for your business.

In this installment, I will share with you the first and probably most practical and useful takeaway I got from this book. I will introduce a systematic approach you could use to analyse the environmental challanges your Canadian business may face, understand where the risks are and what opportunities may be available.

In the chapter ‘Natural Drivers of the Green Wave’, the authors list the top ten environmental challenges a business may face today:

  1. Climate Change
  2. Energy
  3. Water
  4. Biodiversity and Land Use
  5. Chemicals and Toxics
  6. Air Pollution
  7. Waste Management
  8. Ozone Layer
  9. Oceans
  10. Deforestation

To examine the risks and opportunties your business face, put each of the environmental challenges through the AUDIO Analysis:

  • Aspects: its aspects and relevence to your business
  • Upstream: how it affects your upstream suppliers
  • Downstream: how it affects your downstream consumers
  • Issues: what are the issues
  • Opportunities: what are the opportunities

The AUDIO Analysis tool is probably the most valuable item in the entire book. And there is a sample AUDIO Analysis for a big-box retailer. If you only want to read two pages out of this book, these are the two pages for you (see excerpt from Google Books below).

For example, when a big-box retailer put the first environmental challenge, climate change, through the AUDIO Analysis, it may look like this:

  • Aspects: The relevent aspect from climate change is the emissions from energy use
  • Upstream: Distribution system emissions and supplier emissions from operations
  • Downstream: Emissions from customers driving to store; Energy use from products sold in stores
  • Issues: Possible carbon constraints or charges
  • Opportunities: Launch eco-efficiency effort targeted at energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions

So the example big-box retailer can see that from the climate change challenge, he is facing risks from the emissions from energy use internally as well as from their upstream suppliers and downstream customers. And the opportunities may lie in launching eco-efficiency effort targeted at energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions.

The big-box retailer can continue analysing the other remaining nine environmental challenges to understand where the risks and opportunities are. I think this is a very good systematic and comprehensive approach.

You can see the two-page AUDIO Analysis in table form in the Google Books excerpt below. (Note that Google Books limits the number of times you can view this book.)

I hope you find the top ten environmental challenge list and the AUDIO Analysis approach useful. More details can be found in the chapter ‘Natural Drivers of the Green Wave’ in the book (available from Let me know if you would like to discuss how these ideas may be applied to your business in Canada.

In the next post, I will talk about managing and involving stakeholders in your environmental initiatives.

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Derek Wong is a recognized expert at ShareGreen by Walmart, panel judge for Earth Day Canada, keynote speaker at Skills for the Green Economy, and guest speaker at University of Toronto. His innovative approach to employee engagement has led to case studies. Reach him by email or LinkedIn.

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