By: Darren Clarke, High Performance Solutions
A common definition of sustainability is “The ability to meet the needs of today’s generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Today, however, there are organizations that have a more broad perspective of what sustainability or “Going Green” means. By focusing on the elimination of waste they can save thousands of dollars.
Bob Willard, an international leading expert and author of ‘The Sustainability Advantage’ completed research that identifies companies can within 5 years of beginning their sustainability effort improve profits by 38 percent and for smaller organizations the improvement can be in excess of 50 percent. Mr. Willard highlights that one of the most important methods to educate corporate leaders to move toward sustainability is to “speak their language”. The organization does not have to do anything significantly different than they do today but simply “incorporate their sustainability efforts into work they are already doing”.
3 Dimensions of Sustainability
It is important to view sustainability as much more than recycling, using less paper and turning unused lights off. Sustainability takes a holistic view that can be included in any organization’s strategy and goal deployment.
Sustainability is about have a balanced approach or as Bob Willard refers to a 3 legged stool. If one dimension or leg of the chair is heavily concentrated it will tip over and have negative consequences to an organization.
Environmental “Planet” – although it is important to understand this component of sustainability (e.g. atmosphere, waste diversion, energy and water use) it is especially critical to understand that sustainability is much more than what is affectionately referred to as “tree hugging”. Today, there are legislated requirements that companies must be aware of and have a plan to meet. In the public sector, one example is regulation 397/11 that requires public agencies (e.g. schools, hospitals, post secondary educational institutions, libraries, fire halls) have annual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions plan. This plan must include the public agency’s annual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for its operations and a description of previous, current and proposed measures for conserving and otherwise reducing the amount of energy consumed.
Social “ People” – this dimension is about customer and employee loyalty/ attraction. Thinking back of my experience in the mid 1990’s, ISO quality management systems were a “nice to have”. Today, however, it is an expectation of doing business. Companies such as Wal-Mart are asking their suppliers to complete a sustainability scorecard and other companies are beginning to ask their suppliers what their sustainability plan is. This is why it is important that companies be proactive on what will eventually become a requirement and set them apart from their competitors. From an employee perspective the younger generation is attracted to companies concerned about sustainability. In a recent Millennia Study 79% want to work for environmentally responsible company and 68% would refuse to work for a company that is not environmentally responsible.
Economic “Profit” – utilizing a process similar to that of Lean manufacturing that identifies the ‘7 Lean Wastes’ there is an approach to identify, measure, analyze and reduce the ‘7 Wastes of Green’. Author and colleague Brett Wills has outlined those wastes in his book ‘Green Intentions’ (Productivity Press, 2009). There are several examples of organizations saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by embracing sustainability as a way to make more profits. One HPS client, Kitchen Partners in Edmonton was able to save sixty thousand dollars annually by making small changes with air compressors, lights, thermostats and by eliminating lights that were illuminating boxes on shelves. This direct bottom-line cost savings was implemented with less than a $1,000 one-time investment.
7 Wastes of Green
There is sufficient empirical data available that supports why companies must begin their sustainability plans with a sense of urgency. Not only will they improve their environmental footprint, retain/attract new customers and employees, organizations will quite simply save money and make bigger profits. In the end, doing the right thing will help organizations become more sustainable for their stakeholders and future.
About Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke is a Sustainability Coach with High Performance Solutions and has 15 years of progressive experience as a champion of leadership and change management to organizations across multiple industries. Darren is a Certified Six Sigma Blackbelt with leadership experience progressing from Supervisor to Plant Manager. Darren specializes in the identification, facilitation and implementation of numerous continuous improvement projects with proven results.
Please join us October 17, 2012 as Darren discusses the benefits of a Sustainability plan and what companies can do to create or improve their Sustainability strategy or contact Darren at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.