Leadership and Sustainability

How would you define the difference between leadership and management? Our thought is leadership should be focused on the future, innovation, where the organization is headed, as well as determining what are the right things for the organization to do. Management’s role is to do the right things now.

Senior leadership’s commitment to a strategy of sustainability is the only way it will work. Commitment and measured action from the top of the organization is what ultimately creates organizational strength and alignment.

New strategies and initiatives require change and positive change requires the senior leadership team to create and provide a clear vision of where this change will take the organization and how a strategy of sustainability would benefit the organization, the employees, and their customers. Commitment and ongoing follow up on behalf of the senior leadership team is 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 former CEO of Hanover Insurance, the late William O’Brien, “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the interventor. What counts is not only what leaders do and how they do it, but that interior condition, the inner place from which they operate.”

To assist the senior leadership of organizations in the early stages of creating a sustainability strategy, there are some important questions that can help you get started.

  • What does sustainability mean for your organization and does it make sense for your organization at this time?
  • How does sustainability relate and interrelate to your current strategy and other initiatives?
  • What is your business case for pursuing sustainability?
  • Therefore, should your company pursue sustainability?

Another helpful tool is for senior leadership to conduct a sustainability readiness assessment to collect data from management and employees as another resource to clearly see where the organization stands on sustainability issues. Providing your employees and management the opportunity to give senior leadership an anonymous way to share their thoughts on where the company stands on sustainability issues is incredibly informative and invaluable. The assessment provides a data driven starting point and will give the leadership team the information necessary to better answer the four questions listed above. You may also learn that your organization is doing more than you think as it relates to recycling, waste, etc., which is a great starting point. If the data and the business case support the decision to move forward with a sustainability strategy then the education, communication, and planning process begin. Feel free to experience a mini sustainability assessment by visiting our website.

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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