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Powering the Green Movement

Sustainable players say price matters more than ever before.

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Going Green to Save Green

In fact, the bottom line is the best reason to pursue green initiatives in a down market, according to some sustainability-minded companies.

Bill Dodge, GM for Patagonia Footwear, said that eliminating waste in the product creation cycle is both good for green initiatives and for profitability.

He noted that sales of Patagonia were up 18 percent so far for 2009, both domestically and internationally. “The reality of the marketplace is that you have to be as efficient as you possibly can,” Dodge said. “Looking at the entire process and doing our best to be extremely efficient allows us to reduce costs without scrimping on our environmental efforts.”

For retail co-op REI, going green has been directly tied to the bottom line for years — and that’s kept the retailer going.

“The current economic times have created an environment where if you haven’t started to figure out the business benefits of doing something, it’ll be hard to keep going,” said Kevin Hagen, corporate social responsibility manager for the Sumner, Wash.-based company. “But if you have, it’s time to do a lot more of it.”

At REI, being conscious of energy use, as well as other waste-eliminating activities across its retail locations, has translated into savings.

“We’re actually putting money in the bank, or at least avoiding costs,” Hagen said.

And it has paid off: The retailer handed out $72.7 million last year in a direct dividend payment — its largest ever, despite (or because of) its ever-growing commitment to green initiatives.

Already this year, REI has opened three new stores, with two more slated for fall, and green buildouts (using recycled materials, solar water heaters and energy-efficient systems) will make the stores affordable. “Operating costs are a big deal, so lower operating costs are a big deal,” Hagen said.

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