Shades of Green…Getting the Most from Your Sustainability Initiatives

13 Apr

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Are you “dark green” or are you “light green”…or are you a trendy “blue thinker” (having abandoned the “green” mantra as not deep enough)?  Well, two articles caught my eye this morning, both located on a very trustworthy e-zine, the Environmental Leader.  The first discussed how corporate marketers expect their companies to increase environmental sustainability initiatives over the next two to three years.

(http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/04/10/survey-corporate-marketers-foresee-greater-investments-in-sustainability)

The second article was by Deloitte’s Peter Capozucca, who cited a 2008 study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, that stated that companies that embrace sustainability have achieved the highest share price growth over the past three years whereas companies with the worst performance focused less on sustainability (http://www.environmentalleader.com/2009/04/10/avoiding-pitfalls-on-the-sustainability-path-to-shareholder-value/)

What struck me in these two wildly divergent articles (and which seems to be a perennial challenge among both public and private organizations) is the principal motivation is behind companies drive to implement sustainable business practices.   Is the motivation driven by market barriers, new regulations, risk management thresholds, competition, globalization of goods and services, supply chain, cost containment, profit, or more altruistic reasons?   According to the Fleishmann-Hillard led marketing study:

“…three-quarters believe that corporate reputation, corporate culture and technological advancements will be the drivers for sustainability. The Obama administration’s policies also will drive the adoption of corporate sustainability programs, according to 63 percent of respondents. “

Whatever the reason it is clear, as I am discovering here in the Northwest, that sustainability and all that it offers organizations is becoming more prevalent in today’s society.  One size does not fit all when it comes to defining sustainability.  To truly be effective, an initiative must create positive change in fundamental organizational behavior, both within, upstream and downstream of the organizational walls.  This change must provide long term, measurable and meaningful value.

And despite the fact that the economic slowdown has dampened the speed at which organizations are implementing sustainable practices, organizations are finally “getting it”. A few key pointers as you head down the sustainability path:

  • Know your driver
  • Develop a compelling, clear vision of sustainability
  • Identify critical sustainability issues
  • Select areas of focus- look outside the “four walls”
  • Develop and adopt goals and measurable performance indicators
  • Reflect sustainability throughout all phases of organizational development, planning and implementation processes and decisions
  • Build a network of internal sustainability champions
  • Strengthen relationships with key external sustainability partners

Don’t wait to unlock organizational value. Position yourselves now so that you can emerge as a leader within your business sector through:

  • Optimizing the linkage between sustainability, environmental and business objectives;
  • Creating a performance measurement system that demonstrates bottom line results;
  • Identifying marketplace trends that reward innovation toward sustainability; and
  • Building assurance systems for compliance and credible stakeholder engagement.

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