A Five-Step Program for SustainabilityOver the past few weeks, we've participated in a number of external stakeholder reviews and listened to presentations on several green corporate strategies. The general media tend to publish stories about how the abstract entity of "business" is working to become more sustainable. But after our recent travels we're reminded that these changes aren't achieved on a wholesale basis, but rather one company at a time. For firms that have not yet started on their journey toward a more sustainable business, the steps may feel more like they should come from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The five-step program for businesses embracing a sustainability strategy (which almost always includes an environmental component) might look like this:
- Desire: The need for a company to "do something" can be driven by protesters, a board member, or the CEO's grandchildren asking what he's doing to stop global warming.
- Pride: A small group is soon assigned to address the topic of sustainability, and as they look around their company they find numerous examples of just how good their workplace environment is -- people recycle, they print on both sides of paper, or they even have compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Satisfaction: The company initiates energy efficiency and waste reduction projects that all meet the financial hurdle rate and ROI requirements established by the CFO. Marketing wants to publish its first corporate citizenship report, which may or may not contain cautious but long-term emissions reduction targets.
- Depression: The easy projects are done, and now management wants to know how they're going to make money at this sustainability stuff. A non-governmental organization (NGO) publicly chastises the company for not doing enough, and the core team responsible for the company's sustainability initiatives realizes "this stuff is hard."
- Collaboration: At some point, companies realize they can't take this journey alone and they need their company collaborating within functions and business units and to drive for more collaboration with business partners, governmental bodies, NGOs, and customers to continually revisit their strategy as it relates to their sustainability journey.
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