Sustainability as a Business Strategy

By Cody Hoesly of West Linn, Oregon. Born and raised in Oregon, Cody has just returned from exile in California. He now claims he's "back and ready to stay here forever."

In the latest issue of Oregon Business, "the premier magazine for business leaders in Oregon," the editorial staff highlights five priorities for keeping Oregon business strong. Working off memory (the February issue doesn't allow you to see everything online), the five ideas were:

1. Buy PGE with a public-private partnership
2. Invest in a Brand Oregon of sustainable food and other products
3. Develop a sustainability industry to export abroad (particularly to China)
4. Push local research into sustainability and nanoscience
5. Invest more in Oregon's railroads

While the railroads are fine and a good investment, I'm sure, I found two things interesting about the list. First, sustainability is being espoused as a viable business sector for Oregon by the local business community! This is bigger than "just another business philosophy" or a scheme to lure in more customers, this is about a fundamental shift to an organic, sustainable, environmental economy in Oregon.

Sustainability would no longer be a side-goal, but rather the main niche of the enterprise. This is great both because it would diversify and boost Oregon's economy (a niche industry of sustainable products has already begun to grow here), and because it brings Oregon business leaders together with environmentalists to support common positions on protecting the environment.

The second thought that ocurred to me while reading the piece was the support the magazine gave to partial public ownership of PGE. Sustainability is not the only issue Oregon business and Oregon progressives can come to agreement on. Thus, this article highlights the degree to which we can form coalitions with many groups to advance a common progressive agenda.

From a progressive perspective, it would be great if Oregon became known as the place to be for sustainable companies. In addition to the current big industries of lumber and high tech, we can push wind power businesses, organic agriculture, research into biodegradables, etc. We would not only gain good corporate citizens and partners, we would likely bring more progressives to the state, both those who want to work for the sustainability industry, and those who want to enjoy the quality of life it ensures.

One sidenote about Oregon Business Magazine, however. In discussing the sometimes competing goals of Associated Oregon Industries and the more-recently-formed Oregon Business Association, the magazine referred to latter as "left-leaning" without ever calling the former "right-leaning".

AOI is a heavy Republican backer (92% of their political donations go to GOP candidates) and a conservative organization generally. OBA is a response to AOI's increasing conservativism. If anything, the article should have left OBA alone and termed AOI "Republican." In the future, I hope the editors and writers at Oregon Business will be more conscientious about labeling. I encourage you all to do as I did and send them an email saying so.

  • (Show?)

    I haven't seen the magazine, but this is exciting stuff. There is certainly energy & expertise to the sustainability movement, not just in Portland but statewide.

    One of my brightest hopes for sustainability as an economic strategy lies in agriculture. The organic food market growing at somewhere around 20 percent a year. Oregon has a great opportunity to be a leader in the production of local, organic and sustainable foods, something would help hard-hit rural economies immensely.

  • John (unverified)

    Imagine that! Good for business and good for the planet!

    I think civilization is on the verge of discovering that what is ethical is also, in the long run, best all around.

    It is, I believe, a fundamnetal principle of life that I only recently learned.

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