Sustainability: More Familiar than you Realize

Jun 1, 2010   //   by Colin Manuel   //   Marketing & Communication  //  No Comments

Sustainability is more familiar than you realizeWhat stops action faster than a planning committee? Fear of the unknown. A little familiarity goes a long way when it comes to getting buy-in on a problem. By connecting past experience with present problems, you can steer your leadership to a more environmentally and socially responsible way of doing business.

Connect past experience with present challenges

If you look around your company, chances are that you’ll find someone who experienced the rise of Information Technology or Total Quality Management in the workplace. At the time, business leaders had difficulty justifying investment and changing attitudes for as-of-yet unproven benefits. Sound familiar?

Having faced these now familiar issues, business leaders feel more comfortable and confident to tackle similar problems.

Business, Environment & Society

If you think sustainability is a fringe fad, think again. From food and worker safety to your company’s environmental impact — today’s consumers, shareholders and governments expect more than short-term profits. And we believe this BusinessEarth approach will result in significant long-term shareholder value.

Sustainability: Have we met before?

In the Harvard Business Review article “The Sustainability Imperative”, authors David Lubin and Daniel Esty describe sustainability as the next Megatrend:

“Sustainability is an emerging business megatrend, like electrification and mass production, that will profoundly affect companies’ competitiveness and even their survival.”

Other megatrends included the shift to IT in the 1970s, Total Quality Management in the 1980s and Lean Manufacturing in the 1990s. While most every company eventually adopted these practices, visionaries at the leading edge claimed a competitive advantage for years to come.

Past is Present: Get visionary

When cost cutting was all the rage, Toyota focused on maximizing quality. In the 1970s, the immediate returns weren’t that obvious. But leaders believed in it and continued to take incremental steps toward systemic change.

Swimming against the current is always difficult. However, if you paint a picture of the rewards awaiting bold leadership, you’re much more likely to make a departure from business as usual in a way that proves profitable for all.

3 steps to engage your leadership in sustainable business

  1. Explore the past – Ask decision makers how they handled past Megatrends. Listen closely so you can find parallels to today’s movement toward socially and environmentally responsible business.
  2. Connect past to present – Ask leadership if they can see any modern-day equivalent to their past experience. Ask leading questions so that the “sustainability epiphany” can be theirs. This ownership will increase their dedication to a successful outcome.
  3. Tailor to your situation – Some leaders possess a bias toward action AND strong perceptive skills. If you’re lucky enough to find both in your decision makers, great. If not, ask yourself where you need to tailor your approach to fit the specific needs of your industry and company.

Once you’ve opened the door to engagement, work together to form a vision that leadership can share with the rest of the company.

Did we miss anything? How have you used past experience to help others make sense of present-day problems?

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