A Vision for Sustainability

Sustainability began with the concept of being ‘green,’ becoming more environmentally friendly, and paying more attention to conserving our planet’s resources. However, sustainability has become much more than that. Sustainability is a viable and proven business strategy, which takes into account economic considerations, governmental issues, as well as demands from customers and stakeholders.

The base definition of sustainability that many of our clients start with as they begin to define and customize their own strategy and action plan is … an increase in productivity and/or reduction of consumed resources without compromising product or service quality, competitiveness, or profitability while helping to protect the planet. The mantra being: People + Process + Environment = Profit.

New strategies and initiatives require change, and positive change requires the leadership team to create and provide a clear vision of where this change will take the organization. This should also address how a strategy of sustainability benefits the organization, the employees, and their customers. Commitment and ongoing follow-up on behalf of the leadership team are critical. No new strategy can survive, let alone thrive, if leadership is not fully on board. We believe and agree with a statement made by the late and former CEO of Hanover Insurance, William O’Brien, “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor. What counts is not only what leaders do and how they do it, but that interior condition, the inner place from which they operate.”

A compelling vision should:

  • Clarify the purpose for the change
  • Describe intent
  • Provide a cultural change
  • Provide a positive image of the future
  • Be felt in hearts and understood in minds
  • Help the employees intellectually and emotionally grasp what the organization is striving to achieve and why it is important

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of compelling sustainability vision statements:

Example 1: We will be a sustainable corporation. We engage our employees in more sustainable practices; we initiate and use processes that are neutral or improve our environment; and we utilize our resources in ways that create adaptable and sustainable workspace solutions for our customers. We do all of this globally to protect and restore our environment, create economic value and support, and strengthen our communities. (Furniture Manufacturer)

Example 2: We will strive to reduce the impact that our internal operations have on the environment through sustainable practices and source reduction initiatives. In addition, we will seek to provide our customers with solutions designed to help them produce products that are inherently more sustainable. (Engineered Film Producer)

Example 3: Imagine a Community College where ongoing operations result in a minimal negative impact on our natural environment. We are actively engaged in creating ways to positively impact our environment. Continuous learning takes place about our impact on the environment, as a college and as individuals. Sustainability is a way of thinking about everything that we do. Every staff member takes personal responsibility for creating and using sustainable practices and principles in our daily work. We integrate sustainability into our relationships and the social fabric of the college. (Community College)

Can you describe the purpose of your sustainability initiative? Can your employees? Can your customers?

Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation. For over 30 years, RAC, through their Institute for Sustainability, has specialized in helping businesses define and implement a common sense approach to sustainability while achieving high levels of excellence and results. Learn how at www.theinstituteforsustainability.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.

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