Colorado Takes a Stance: Business is NOT at Odds with Sustainability

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force,” as a famous green Jedi once quoted, “As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror… I fear something terrible has happened.” On June 1st, tremors echoed through the entire world with the formal announcement for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. It was a “great disturbance.”


Yet, in the aftermath of our supposed “forward progress,” countless companies around the nation stepped forward to challenge the concept that sustainability is at odds with their overall success. In fact, some entire companies exist – and profit – solely to forward sustainability.


How’s that for a theory that sustainability is bad for business?


Here in Colorado, my new home state, businesses are drawing a bold line. Sustainability not only defines positive business practices, it can enhance the bottom line. Here are three businesses, across drastically diverse industries, proving that exact premise every day.


Aspen Snowmass: Climate Change is Our Biggest Threat

“Bottom line: climate change is the biggest threat to snow sports. It has a huge impact on the cost of doing business, and on our ability to attract business.” Connecting with Mathew Hamilton, Aspen Snowmass’s Sustainability Director, outlined a clear picture: warm winters are bad for business. Who wants to book a luxury ski trip when it’s 80 degrees and sunny?


It’s imperative for Aspen Snowmass to not just think locally with sustainability initiatives, but also think globally. After all, they are expanding their resorts to other areas, including Ketchum, Idaho. Snow needs to keep falling to support their 3,600 employees.


That, along with a company ethos built around sustainability, helped motivate Aspen Snowmass’s decision to invest $5.4 million into Elk Creek Mine to champion a methane-to-energy project. What Outdoor Magazine called “strange bedfellows” actually paints a clear picture of they type of innovation spearheaded by finding common economic ground. This economic incentive allowed two causes seemingly at odds to circumvent a polarized political climate to chart a path toward a substantial impact.


In response to the June 1st edict, Aspen Snowmass plans to continue charting forward aggressive sustainability efforts, continually looking for measures to put their weight behind.


Odell Brewing: Water Scarcity is a Business Sustainability Issue

Do you know how much water it takes to create your favorite craft beer? The industry average uses 7 gallons of water per single gallon of beer. Drought season might make your average beer less refreshing, and potentially more costly.


Corey Odell, the Sustainability Coordinator from Odell Brewing, pointed out “Water is certainly important to us as it makes up around 95% of our final product. It is also a limited resource especially in Colorado.”


With water scarcity issues on the horizon, due to increased populations, decreasing water use becomes a vital necessity, not a luxury. How else will a small craft brewing company continue to grow in a water shortage?


“Becoming more efficient with its use benefits both Odell and the environment,” Corey pointed out. To date, Odell Brewing almost halved the amount of water needed, shaving it down to 4 gallons per gallon of beer. And they aren’t done yet. In 2012 alone, after modifying their vacuum pump, the company saved 2.5 million gallons of water. Business wise, that’s substantial cost savings.


Knowing that water efficiency isn’t something they can do in a vacuum, Odell Brewing spearheads extensive community outreach, engagement, and education. “We currently set aside $2 per barrel of beer produced for our Community Outreach Program,” Corey highlighted.


She encourages other businesses to, “re-evaluate their practices as new information is always coming out.” Not treating it as a relevant business tier puts an organization a risk of becoming, “stagnate.”


Simple Energy: Working Toward a Sustainable Future Is Why We Exist

How’s that for a bold mission statement? Simple Energy’s entire mission is to, “work to build a more sustainable future.” Currently, they accomplish that through creating software that makes saving energy social, fun and simple.


The idea of sustainability not being a fundamental tenant of business is so at odds with Simple Energy that founder Yoav Lurie rejected the entire premise, stating, “We make money by helping the environment.”


To Simple Energy, sustainability is one of the fundamental tenants of business. No questions asked. Taking this further, they don’t limit their measures to their work. Putting gusto behind their mission, they supply BCycle Passes and Bus Passes for all employees, purchase carbon offsets for traveling team members, integrate energy efficiency measures into their building, and more.

For a small tech company targeting the same talent pool as heavy hitters like Amazon and Google, engraining their environmental mission into every aspect of their work gives them the ability to retain employees, specifically software engineers.


“The people who work here work in large part because of the impact we made.” This clarity and conviction gives Simple Energy a competitive edge when onboarding talented team members.


Taking Marching Orders

Many Coloradans, both individuals and business owners, view the recent stance on environmental policies to be marching orders. It’s time to champion our own sustainability initiatives and underscore that sustainability is not necessarily at odds with smart business practices.


If you’re in the greater Denver area, I have two ways to get you moving.


For the businesses out there, consider becoming a Certifiably Green Denver business. This free process pairs you with the city’s Sustainability Advisor Jeremy Lauffenburger to explore green practices that fit for your business. You are looking at a recently certified business!


To all the individuals looking for ways to jump-start infinitives, attend one of the upcoming Denver Green Forums (also launching a Boulder event). It’s a unique blend of sustainable business, activism and community engagement.


Are you launching your own initiatives or ramping up your commitment? Let me know in the comments.