There’s virtue in earning fiscal and eternal profits

The Vatican announced in March that pollution is a sin.
By Bob Vavra, Editor April 15, 2008

The Vatican announced in March that pollution is a sin. Apparently, “Thou shalt not kill” now includes the environment.

It’s an interesting concept from both theological and regulatory standpoints. We’ve seen how many companies build the cost of regulatory fines into their budget. Fines are just another line item %%MDASSML%% the cost of doing business.

But now add those fines to the potential for eternal damnation %%MDASSML%% now we’re talking about a penalty! Will that spur major global polluters to reconsider their practices? How do you account for a soul in a profit-and-loss statement to the stock market? It’s a sin to tell a lie, but it’s also a sin to spill some lye.

Forgive the cynicism, but we’ve seen how some companies regard the laws and regulations designed to protect the environment. It’s hard to believe that making pollution a sin will somehow be the revelation to end such practices. The line will be drawn, as it always is, at dollars and cents.

Many companies find the common ground of responsible fiscal and environmental stewardship, and many more are getting on board as the financial benefits become better defined.

Helping that process along, as this month’s cover story demonstrates, is a dazzling array of new tools provided by utilities, manufacturing suppliers and other energy companies. These tools help manufacturers calculate and measure what energy they use and how that energy can be conserved and dissipated safely into the environment.

Sustainability, as we’ve discussed in recent months, is that intersection between profitability and responsibility. Sustainable manufacturing, by definition, is both fiscally and environmentally beneficial.

There’s something noble about leaving the world in at least the same shape as you found it each day, and there’s nothing greedy about making a profit. It’s not always easy to do both. Our 2007 Top Plant winners, honored this month at our Manufacturing Summit, are good examples of how environmentally sound practices can be good for business as well.

In the prayer, “Our Father,” is the line that has often been quoted in the secular world as well: “Lead us not into temptation.” Companies, as a whole, do not sin, or fail their stockholders, or run afoul of the regulatory agencies. It is an issue of leadership or the lack of responsible leadership.

Leadership doesn’t fit into a calculator, and it doesn’t require much of a capital investment in most places. Leadership can come from anywhere. We lead at first by always striving to do the right thing, and then by making the right thing profitable as well.

Profits are measured quarter to quarter, year to year. Other “profits” have more eternal benefits, which I guess is the point the Vatican tries make. And regardless of where you stand on religion, there’s no commandment that says you can’t do both.