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Green and Profitable – An Interview With Shel Horowitz

Green and Profitable. There is nothing better than a name which tells you exactly what you need to know. In fact, Shel Horowitz believes that you can be more profitable by going green and that in doing so you will bring added value to your bottom line and to your social and environmental contributions.

Shel HorowitzAuthor, speaker and marketing consultant Shel Horowitz is the man behind GreenAndProfitable, which aims to show businesses how they can use Green to real advantage. He is passionate about the need to protect our environment, he is passionate about ethical business practices. But that is not really the point. Through GreenAndProfitable, Shel is showing businesses that they can profit from being Green.

Shel Horowitz has been an activist all his life. I didn’t need to speak to him to find that out. So I asked him if there was one penny dropping moment that he could think of.

“I come from a quasi activist household” he told me. A vivid memory of his mother castigating a landlord for racist behavior was certainly one formative moment. Another came when he turned 12. Shel remembers that he had to start buying an adult ticket at the cinema. Very young to be paying full price, sure, but that was not the issue. The real problem was that having paid for an adult ticket he was forced to sit in the children’s section. Adult price, child seat. This was too much to bear so he started a boycot. He laughs as he tells me that he still hasn’t gone back to that theatre!

Many years and eight books later, Shel Horowitz spends his time and energy persuading anyone who will listen that a social and environmental conscience is not only ethically essential but also good for business. His latest book is a co-writing project with Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the Guerrilla Marketing Handbook. Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green lays out strategies for using Green to reach new markets, slash costs and do good.

He spoke to me about Walmart:

“Walmart doesn’t hire treehuggers”

We are not talking about a company who puts environment before everything else. We are talking about a company which is still boycotted by many, not least by Shel himself. And yet they have been slashing fuel costs and gaining publicity and praise for green energy measures. They recently began to include sustainability in their merchant performance reviews. They have brought in new and stricter packaging rules for their suppliers. On top of this they are selling vast quantities of organic and eco-friendly products to customers who would not go to dedicated organic or green stores. He still won’t shop there. He feels there are lingering supply chain problems and “sweat-shop labor is still an issue” but he finds much to applaud in their efforts. Much to point to that other companies could and should emulate.

The market is there and it is growing. Shel saw evidence for this when travelling in Northern Ireland with his wife who led a student tour focused on the peace process. In highway convenience stores Shel noticed organic and healthy options being successfully promoted. In the US, organic and eco options have not reached most convenience stores yet. But they have reached the supermarkets, so it makes sense that the convenience stores will follow. What they will follow is an increasing demand from customers.

“Green is usually more efficient”

Shel points to the example of the $13 million investment in the Empire State Building. The proprietors undertook a retrofit of the Empire State Building to “prove or disprove the economic viability of whole-building energy efficiency retrofits”. Now the building is costing $4.4 million per year less to run. One third of the investment is being paid back each year. Shel asked me to imagine what could be achieved if every skyscraper in the world received the same treatment! With figures like that there is barely any need to make the environmental argument.

Lest we forget that small changes also matter, one of Shel’s favorite examples is his double-sided printer. It didn’t cost him more than an ordinary printer and it saves him 40% of his paper costs. It is a good time to point out that recycled paper along with many other eco-friendly products are becoming more and more price competitive every day.

I asked Shel what he thinks is the biggest issue for us today.

“Well there is an 800 lb gorilla called climate change waiting around the corner for us,” he replies. He tells us that we have to shift the paradigm. Make small changes. Show people that it works, that it makes business sense. He points to the consequences being felt today of waste management decisions made 50 – 100 years ago. We have the technology, knowledge and experience to prevent similar consequences in the future.

“Germany has 50% of the per-capita energy consumption of the US”

To Shel Horowitz, all the signs are pointing in the same direction and he powerfully asks:

“What are we waiting for?”

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