Should our organization be focussing on a sustainable approach? What does that even mean?
Try using this as an initial guide. Becoming sustainable is not a business fad. It is a serious decision with lots of strategic and resource ramifications. Perhaps this will assist in your decision-making:
So here is my definition of SUSTAIN. What do you think?
Strategic. An organization, regardless of size has to have a strategic rationale for embracing and deploying sustainability within its practices. What is the vision of what it is attempting to undertake and what are the timescales? Begin with the end in mind as Steven Covey says (https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit2.php)
Other questions to consider from a holistic perspective include:
- What resources are required?
- What is the extent of the sustainable initiatives? Is it all-embracing or focused on an initial department or division? Front or back office? Supply chain or not?
- Has the strategic intent been communicated to all parties? Are they ready for any resultant change?
Universal. How big a net do we need to cast? How universal is universal. Too big and perhaps we are set up for failure. Too small and is there any point? Is there a right approach? I am a big fan of Kaizen (the process of continuous improvement) and really back the ideas as shown in Robert Maurer’s book: “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way”. He advocates the approach of taking small steps so that change is better managed and internalized. Perhaps consider a small sustainable initiative, undertake it and discover what works and what does not. Now apply the lessons at a larger scale, and perhaps this “experiment” is now scalable and can embrace more stakeholders and larger portion of the organization. So perhaps universal is all about defining and articulating the scale of the initiative and then scaling up.
Stakeholders. These are any interested parties who are involved in the sustainable activities and can be internal or external to the organization. These stakeholders are intrinsically involved in undertaking and delivering the initiatives. They need to be proactively involved in the communications and in identifying the wins (both short-term and long-term). If the stakeholders are not identified and prioritized then how can you get things done to help the organization move forwards in the strategic sustainable direction set.
Transformational. An organization that is truly sustainable has to be clear where it is going and communicate its strategic intent. This will create changes at a number of levels involving staff, resources, equipment and impacting decisions. It will create transformational impact. The questions, is whether the organization is ready and willing to embrace this?
Activities. If the strategic intent has been defined and articulated, then this will cascade into a series of activities that the departments, teams and individuals undertake to enact the sustainable initiatives. Good management practices are required to manage and co-ordinate the activities to ensure success. What activities are selected and what is the rationale behind the selection, and crucially has this been communicated to all stakeholders?
Innovate. Innovation is the ability to do something new, to translate an idea into a new product or service. How can we use innovation to embrace sustainability? Looking at this from the perspective of creating something disruptive or at a large-scale, limits the number of potential outputs from the process. Examining what is done from a small-scale perspective (ties back into the Kaizen approach), provides more opportunities to innovate. But does the organization have the culture to innovate, think and implement new ideas? Perhaps we should consider innovation not from an external perspective, but from an internal perspective. What processes does the organization undertake that can be subject to the innovation lens?
Novel? If the rationale for undertaking sustainability within an organization, at whatever level, is not articulated, communicated and internalized then it will not move from the theoretical approach to the day-to-day activities of ensuring that the resources available today are used in a responsible way that does not adversely impact generations to come.