Key Sustainable Indicators (KSI)

In an article in the Independent newspaper,; issues have been raised around the excessive use of water in creating commodity food products and why corporations need to take note on the excessive use.  I was startled to read that, “Each slice of toast consumed in Britain, for example, has taken up 240 litres of water in its production. It takes 1,000 tons to produce a ton of wheat and 16,000 tons for each ton of beef.” 

This is truly a staggering amount of resource to create basic products and who knows how much is used to create other staples.  It is generally accepted that water is no longer (or perhaps never was) an inexpensive product and service to create and we are all paying for this in our monthly utility bills.

The article suggests that organizations should record the true costs of production within its corporate filings.  This is an interesting idea to consider and though it may not get formal nor universal acceptance, it should be considered further as a concept.

There is almost universal acceptance around using Key Performance Indicators in its role in delivering an organization’s strategic intent.  So how about having Key Sustainable Indicators (KSI)? They would include key measures of activities that allow an organization to move towards its sustainable targets, both in the short and long-term.  In the case of the article above, water usage could well be a suitable KSI and strategic goals would be created in identifying how to reduce its planned usage.  To achieve the target it may involve becoming simply increasing efficiencies or innovating to reduce usage.

Should these goals be published or not?  There is no binary answer to this.  If they are published, it is open for public consumption and may provide an insight into the competitive nature of the organization.  Perhaps a good first step is to have a suitable set of internal indicators to work towards. 

If selected:

  • Ensure that they are understood and communicated to all employees (and other appropriate stakeholders) as to why they have been selected and how they will allow sustainable goals to be achieved.
  • They are SMARTR (Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Time-bound and Reviewed).  Simply selecting a measure is not enough and they should be periodically reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose and still relevant.
  • That not too many KSIs are selected.  Have too many and they will be difficult to maintain and manage.  Have say between 5-7 KSis.

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