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Forget Green AV...For Now

If figuring out how green AV applies to your company has you pulling your hair out, take a step back and work on the bigger picture. When sustainability in your AV systems evolve from a strategy of corporate responsibility, it's a lot easier to accomplish your goals. Columnist Midori Connolly explores.


Midori Connolly

Since my last Sustainable AV column ("Is Green Getting Tired?" September/October 2009), I've received an outpouring of feedback from dozens of readers who share my feelings. Apparently there are a lot of us who have become disillusioned with the rampant obsession with "going green." Fueled by uncertainty over what exactly green AV means, many have turned to skepticism and doubt-or already abandoned the movement entirely, citing economic woes and the perceived cost of green business practices.

Message received. So until we reach a point where we have a valid set of industry-accepted guidelines on green AV, I have a seemingly radical suggestion: Forget about green AV. I know that sounds crazy coming from me, but go ahead, take the green AV action item off your next meeting agenda and give the movement a break. Stop worrying that your efforts to communicate an environmental commitment might be viewed as "green washing." Put aside concerns over whether it would be more legitimate to call what you do "sustainable" rather than "green." Take a deep breath and step back from a marketplace that is clanging with carnival barkers trying to lure you to the latest, greatest green features. You might even begin to feel better.

However by now, of course, you know I have in mind an alternative to shying away.

Think Bigger

Early as it is, now's the time to reshape your thinking on green AV and what it means to be sustainable. At the root of sustainability is the concept of strategy--of a strategic statement of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Approaching green AV by focusing on a strategic CSR is especially important for the companies in our industry because it expands our thinking from just, "What should we do for our planet?" to "How can we balance our concern for the environment and the society in which we operate with the economic well-being of our organization?"

Before I launch into a "how-to" monologue on CSR and CSR statements, let me put aside this term, too. No matter the name, CSR and/or sustainable business practices are a function of an organization's values. The desired outcome of a greener planet can't be accomplished through two meetings and a catchy marketing plan. It requires a long-term view of corporate citizenship and a systematic approach to creating a core set of values, establishing goals, and measuring the outcomes of predetermined objectives. Eventually such a broad-stroke set of systems and processes will help make green AV just another way of doing business because it will be engrained into every single activity of the organization.

Need an example? At the recent Green Display Expo in Washington, D.C., Werner Becker, a senior director in the Liquid Crystals Division at Merck KGaA, gave a presentation called "Sustainability and Green Product Policy." Merck KGaA has long been committed to environmental stewardship (and it's the world's leading supplier of liquid crystals). The company has produced social responsibility reports every two years since 1993 and absorbed mandatory and voluntary environmental measures into all phases of its products' life cycle.

It might help to look at it this way. If Merck were singularly focused on what the mainstream deemed to be most important 10 years ago, it would not have felt an increasing need for more energy efficient products and sustainable manufacturing processes. However, being attuned to environmental issues and propelled by its Operational Excellence (OE) program, the Liquid Crystals Division is now the global market leader. The company has dominated the LCD, LED, and OLED materials marketplace and steadily increased its investment in solar energy and innovative light sources for energy-saving LEDs.

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