April 17, 2017

Do not eschew the green economy

Nearly a month has passed since President Donald Trump – along with a cohort of coal executives and climate-change deniers – walked into the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. to sign an executive order rolling back clean air, land use and other environmental protections.

The scene made for intriguing political theater and helped Trump make good on his campaign promises to coal miners and others who see environmental protections as a detriment to the economy, or at least their portion of it. Yet, luckily for the green industry – and the planet we live on – such political maneuvering doesn't change the reality of the marketplace:

1. Acting in the best interest of the environment is more often than not in the best financial interest of businesses.

2. Businesses tend to make decisions based on the best financial interest of their organization, regardless of the periodic shifts in political power.

Most business decisions all boil down to return on investment; how long it will take to get a positive return for the time and resources invested in an endeavor. If a manufacturer – or any other company for that matter – can pay off the cost of energy-efficiency measures in less than two years by cutting its power consumption, that decision is a no-brainer. If a corporate campus can see a net monetary gain by producing onsite electricity through a solar array or fuel cell within eight years – all while mitigating against a power outage of the main electric grid – of course the company will pursue that venture.

Even though these examples represent pretty straightforward, monetarily driven decisions made in a complex world, most businesses see the big picture and make investments accordingly. In our cover story in this issue, First Bristol Corp. made the decision to put its Homewood Suites hotel in Worcester's Washington Square – and purposefully not have an in-house restaurant – in order to create a more tourist-friendly city where people will rely on area restaurants and other neighboring resources, which can have significant economic and environmental advantages. Also in this issue, the College of the Holy Cross made the conscience decision to keep its urban campus full of lush greenery in order to entice more tuition-paying students to enroll there.

While the clean economy has insulation against the president's policies aimed to loosen environmental enforcement, there are still reasons for concern. Eight years of President Barack Obama's environmental policies certainly shaped how the country has come to view wind, solar and undeveloped land, and the business world has responded accordingly. The Trump Administration's attitudes are sure to seep in as well, so green economy advocates must remain vigilant against the coming political changes.

Unfortunately for the coal workers who may have dreamed of a return to the glory days, cleaner fuels have outcompeted coal, and the country's desire for coal as a prefered fuel is unlikely to ever return. An executive order can't make a power company want to build a costly coal plant. That's because acting in the best interests of its neighbors and the environment is only good business.


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