It's hard being green...
How many times do you hear from the environmentalists that corporations can easily be green and make money at it....well, the truth is a bit more complex. It's hard being green...and unprofitable..
Auden Schendler learned about corporate environmentalism directly from the prophet of the movement. In the late 1990s, Schendler was working as a junior researcher at the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank in Aspen led by Amory Lovins, legendary author of the idea that by "going green," companies can increase profits while saving the planet. As Lovins often told Schendler and others at the institute, boosting energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions constitute not just a free lunch but "a lunch you're paid to eat."
Inspired by this marvelous promise, Schendler took a job in 1999 at Aspen Skiing Co., becoming one of the first of a new breed: the in-house "corporate sustainability" advocate. Eight years later, it takes him six hours crisscrossing the Aspen region by car and foot to show a visitor some of the ways he has helped the posh, 800-employee resort blunt its contribution to global warming. Schendler, 37, a tanned and muscular mountain climber, clambers atop a storage shed to point out sleek solar panels on an employee-housing rooftop. He hikes down a stony slope for a view of the resort's miniature power plant, fueled by the rushing waters of a mountain creek. The company features its environmental credentials in its marketing and has decorated its headquarters with green trophies and plaques. Last year Time honored Schendler as a "Climate Crusader" in an article accompanied by a half-page photo of the jut-jawed executive standing amid snow-covered evergreens.
But at the end of this arid late-summer afternoon, Schendler is feeling anything but triumphant. He pulls a company sedan to the side of a dirt road and turns off the motor. "Who are we kidding?" he says, finally. Despite all his exertions, the resort's greenhouse-gas emissions continue to creep up year after year. More vacationers mean larger lodgings burning more power. Warmer winters require tons of additional artificial snow, another energy drain. "I've succeeded in doing a lot of sexy projects yet utterly failed in what I set out to do," Schendler says. "How do you really green your company? It's almost f------ impossible."