Monday, July 16, 2012

Let's be Greener

On top of Mt. Sneffels

I was asked to speak about sustainability at the Food & Beverage Awards Conference in Amsterdam on June 22nd. It was an initiative of The Moodie Report (, an airport retail magazine and source of information for the retail travel industry. Then the following week, I decided to join two long-time friends in their last week of a six-month sabbatical. During the week we rode bicycles for a couple of days and hiked La Plata and Sneffels peaks, two of the famous “Colorado Fourteeners.”
At the conference I talked about the sustainability approach we adopted since introducing organic coffee cultivation in Costa Rica. I made a few really basic points:

Companies are not accounting for the environmental costs we might be imposing on our children and grandchildren. These costs are not showing up on our profit-and-loss statements. I explained that the general well-being of future generations is not taken into account in business decisions guided by a short-term incentive system. We are in fact imposing a lower quality of life on future generations.

The regulations will keep tightening. Eventually, accountants and environmentalists will get together. Governments will require that all companies certify their carbon footprint. Excess carbon emissions will have to be included on the P&L statement as a cost or expense, and companies will have to “pay” for it somehow (via a tax or a set of required environmental activities equivalent to the cost of the emissions). I have talked about this with an accounting expert, and he thinks that including the environmental costs on the P&L statement is an innovative idea that can be done through the boards that govern the International Financial Reporting System (IFRS) and the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP).

In the meantime, companies have an opportunity to excel at voluntarily taking a comprehensive approach toward sustainability. I described some best practices that airport concessionaires like Britt apply nowadays and suggested that much more can be done to include the customer as part of the solution – i.e. teaching how to recycle using practices already in place at airport shops and restaurants.
Finally, I urged business leaders to do more, maybe just one more action in favor of the environment at their companies.

Then I took off to Colorado. I had arranged for a two-day bike trip, traveling on bike trails between Avon, Glenwood Springs and Aspen. During those two days the big fires burning in several areas of Colorado were all over the news. By Tuesday, 346 homes had burned near Colorado Springs, two people had been killed, and over 30,000 people had been forced from their homes. A Forest Service official declared that a warmer climate had extended the fire season into the spring months, and that we were feeling record high temperatures in Colorado.

The next days we climbed La Plata Peak (14,336 ft) and Mt. Sneffels (14,150 ft). Both were good hikes. I had to keep up with my missionary friends who happen to be expert hikers and climbers. I cannot describe with words the beauty and magnificence of those mountains. We climbed Sneffels through the Blue Lakes trail. Along the way we saw flower-filled prairies, three deep-blue lakes, glacial moraines, singing birds, squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, massive rock formations, melting snow feeding white-water rivers… pristine beauty, worth preserving at all costs.

And up there, I remembered the fires in the news, the smoke I saw from the plane arriving into Denver, and the threat to these mountains. On the news, they talked about the failure of a new fire-preventing software that was not completely in place. They described the difficulty of using budgets from different counties or states to mobilize the resources needed to fight the fires, and reported on the excess fuel available for the fires due to unnaturally thick growths of trees in some areas. The reporters did not question why the fire season had extended, what the causes of climate change might be, nor what we all should be doing to change the situation.
Maybe it is because scientifically we cannot prove that climate change is caused by human action. Scientific proof is fine, but many times modern society falls in the trap of requiring scientific proof for taking action. Sometimes we live under the illusion that everything is scientifically proved. We forget that science cannot prove something as fundamental as the existence of love, and it has a hard time even trying to prove the existence of time. But we all love and we are all aware of the importance of time. Even though science has not yet proven that human action is causing climate change, shouldn´t we walk a safer “trail” and take decisive action in favor of the environment?

I ended my airport industry presentation with a question: Did we want to be remembered as an irresponsible, money-making, earth-destroying generation? I love my kids, and I hope to have grandchildren someday. They deserve to enjoy nature as I am doing it!
Iced dive

I feel compelled to do more for the environment, lead an even greener Britt, and become a greener person. I hope you do, too!

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