The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) recently held a three-day meeting at Hunter Industries in San Marcos, California, to discuss “Innovating Toward a Sustainable and Profitable Future.” The purpose of the meeting was multiple — to develop a better understanding of business models that work productively with sustainability and balance profitability, to begin drafting a statement of intent and a plan for follow through to create positive momentum among industry stakeholders, and to work to align or surpass standards of Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).


Meeting participants included Crystal Ball Committee Chair Jim McCutcheon, CLP, HighGrove Partners, Austell, Georgia, Crystal Ball Committee Co-chair Kurt Kluznik, CCLP, Yardmaster, Inc., Painesville, Ohio; Crystal Ball Committee Co-chair Steve Pattie, CLP, The Pattie Group, Novelty, Ohio; Sharon Barnes, Barnes Nursery, Huron, Ohio; Doug Bennett, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Las Vegas, Nevada; Hilary Bradbury-Huang, The University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; Rex Bishop, North Metro Technical College, Atlanta, Georgia; Kurt Bland, CLP, CLT, Bland Landscaping Co., Inc., Apex, North Carolina; Dean DeSantis, CLP, DeSantis Landscapes, Salem, Oregon; Carol Dilger, Ariens, Ferdinand, Indiana; Joel Eaton, Mineral Visions, a Fairmont Minerals Company, Chardon, Ohio; Jay Fraleigh, Gro-Eco, Madison, Florida; Tom Fochtman, CLP, CoCal Landscape, Denver, Colorado; Parwinder Grewal, The Ohio State University, Wooster, Ohio; Ron Hall, Landscape Management, Port Clinton, Ohio; Bill Harley, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, Alexandria, Virginia; Tom Heaviland, CLP, CLT, Heaviland Enterprises, San Diego, California; Richard Heller, CLP, CLT, Greener by Design, Pelham, New York; Sabeena Hickman, PLANET, Herndon, Virginia; Bill Hildebolt, Ph.D., CTP, CTP-CSL, Nature’s Select Premium Turf Services, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Bob Kehres, Ohio Prairie Nursery, Hiram, Ohio; Roger Phelps, STIHL, Virginia Beach, Virginia; Doug Obermann, PBI/Gordon, Kansas City, Missouri; Heather Venhaus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; and Lynda Wightman, Hunter Industries, Missoula, Montana. PLANET President Jason Cupp, CLP, Highland Outdoor, Olathe, Kansas, was unable to attend the meeting.


The group explored what sustainability means to the most important element of any company — the employee. They looked specifically at how other national companies, such as Walmart and Fairmont Minerals, have focused on this area. The group also looked at educating employees on what “green” means on both a societal level and an individual level. Specific outcomes of company sustainability summits have had an emphasis on employee health and education, employee turnover, and finding motivated individuals. This has been an issue in the landscape industry for years. A potential outcome of employee-centric sustainability programs is better retention and buy-in.


Every company at the meeting practicing sustainability has been engaged in lean management practices for a couple of years. Lean management, an operational strategy, was the focus of PLANET’s Crystal Ball Report two years ago.


“It’s critically important for us, as a group representing the ‘green industry,’ to analyze and establish the sustainability practices of our profession, and to make comparisons to other industries and companies that are leaders in the arena. It is also critical that our work also drive the growth, innovation, and profitability of our industry,” states McCutcheon. 


In addition, the group is researching an action plan for the future with the possibility of building a coalition of states and related associations that can partner with and move the industry closer to sustainable practices. The group also concluded that partnering with allied organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and The Sustainable Sites Initiative to evolve these practices, and developing educational tracks that reflect this commitment would be ideal.  USGBC has established the guidelines for LEED certification.


Additional allied organizations for sustainability partnerships include nursery growers, equipment manufacturers, and all related supplier companies.


The group plans to have a follow-up meeting in Ohio, date not yet confirmed, an online forum to continue discussions, and to establish a sustainable task force.  Through this meeting, the groundwork for the 2009 Crystal Ball Report (final written report) was accomplished and research goals were identified.


Crystal Ball Reports were originally published by the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA), prior to its merger with the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA).  This merger resulted in the formation of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), which continues to identify meaningful topics, resulting in the development of Crystal Ball Reports. For many years, valuable information about the green industry has been captured by leading members of the industry and compiled into these Crystal Ball Reports.


To learn more, visit LandcareNetwork.org, or call the PLANET office at (800) 395-2522.