The End of Sustainability? Part II

Thank you for all of the comments and emails. It seems that my last post, The End of Sustainability, contained something that many of you could relate with and have experienced in your careers. A good many of you wanted to know more. I was asked, “You only listed a few examples, could you give more examples of areas where I can look within my company?”

So, in this post we’ll go over a few and point you to other resources that you can use to help you spread sustainability throughout your organization.

Some may call them trends in sustainability, but trends, like acid washed jeans and parachute pants, come and go. Sustainability is not a trend and it is not a wave crashing against the shores of corporate activity. Sustainable Development is as real of a business practice as Safety, Loss Prevention, Marketing and Governmental Affairs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Speaking the Language of Sustainability, we need to stop going after the headline grabbing PR buzz words and focus on the activity of implementing sustainable business practices into our everyday activities and make sure that we present them within a proper business framework.

Here are a few areas that you can review and see where you can incorporate them into your organizations current and future activities:

1) Educational Needs

In this shrinking global world businesses will increasingly be using more workers from developing countries. As you look around your organization ask yourself if the education and training programs that you have established are enough to ensure your continued success. And if you haven’t established these programs ask what are we waiting for.

2) Overconsumption of Resources

I’ve read that each year it takes between 45 and 85 tons of natural resources per person to support the economy of a typical industrialized country. I’ve also seen that if we continue consuming at this rate we will need 3 to 4 earths to keep up with this rate. Look at your products and services and ask “Is there a better way?” Think of Xerox and it’s activity of product cannibalization. Get a copy of Cradle to Cradle, read it and look at the chemicals that go into your products.

3) Freshwater Depletion

It has been said that 70% of the freshwater is trapped in glaciers and snow cover, a little over 20% is used for irrigation, 8% is consumed for commercial and industrial uses, that leaves about 1% for human consumption. We’re using groundwater faster than it can be replenished. Take a look at your organizations water usage. Can you find areas of improvement and reduction?

4) Wetlands Destruction

Wetlands are the most valuable of all ecosystems. They include marshes, swamps, ponds and bogs. Think twice before you jump on an opportunity to drain a swamp and put in a parking lot or manufacturing plant. You’ll hear some say, “But, we’re making something out of nothing.” Just remember, that nothing plays an important part in recharging groundwater, controlling floods, and removing water pollutants.

5) Credibility of Corporations

A 2003 Gallup poll for CNN/USA Today found that a mere 18% of those responding felt that the honesty standards of business executives were high or very high. That number maybe higher seven years later, but I some how doubt it. But, you can help your executive “get it”. Ray Anderson and Jeffery Hollander are two that come to mind.

6) Transparency

Investors, employees, and consumers all want to know what they can expect from your organization and your products and services. They have questions such as “What are the risks? How is the organization dealing with them? How can it affect me? Take the time to answer these questions and determine how you can pass the answers to your stake and shareholders.

7) Supply Chain

Andrew Winston presented this in his recent book, Green Recovery. On October 22, 2008, Wal-Mart called a meeting of Chinese manufactures to discuss its supply chain goals. At this meeting Lee Scott stated that suppliers who don’t follow the path for envir0nmental and social standards, energy use and transparency “will be banned from making products for Wal-Mart.” Look at your current supply chain and see where you can improve or reduce activities. Think about it, do you want to be the one taking the orders or do you want to be the one that is setting the new direction and giving the orders.

Hopefully this will help jump-start your thinking. The following sites can provide you with additional information and resources.


Ethical Corporation

Triple Pundit

Sustainability Forum


Global Reporting Initiative

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