Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
To successfully implement a sustainability model or any other initiative requires clarity and a shared understanding as to what this word, program or strategy really means.
The Brundtland Commission developed the most frequently used definition of sustainability: “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
From this definition, further refinement can take place, such as suggested by the Institute for Sustainability: “…an increase in productivity and/or reduction of consumed resources without compromising product or service quality, competitiveness or profitability while helping to save the environment.”
Finding common agreement on this term of sustainability as in other terms, such as success, is necessary to ensure implementation or execution. For some small businesses terms, such as “Natural Capitalism,” “Natural Step,” “Zeri Approach,” “ZERO Waste” and “Cradle-to-Cradle” may be included within an organization’s definition of sustainability.
Additionally, even though the implementation is an organizational action, there exists internal and external benchmarks. Because there are two events happening simultaneously, effective implementation works with both benchmarks.
Here is one sustainability implementation model that may work for your small business regardless of size.
Level One Implementation: Recognize
Effective implementation of a sustainability program begins with awareness or recognizing there exists a need for this program both internally and externally.
Level Two Internally: Initiate
The first action is to initiate an organizational assessment specific to sustainability and the other key areas for business success. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has established these seven categories:
2. Strategic planning
3. Customer and market focus
4. Measurement, analysis and knowledge management
5. Human resource focus
6. Process management
7. Business results
There are many organizational assessments. One of the better ones I recommend due to its speed in collecting data, simplistic construction, alignment to Baldrige, overall reliability and affordability is D.I.AL.O.G. (Diagnostic Indicating Alignment of Organizational Goals).
Then strategic alignment followed by stakeholder/shareholder research completes Level Two. The result of Level Two is the creation of a solid foundation from which to build a sustainability program.
Level Three: Implement
Within this third level, three separate actions are taking place either independently or dependently based upon internal resources of time, energy and money. They are:
1. People development
2. Process improvement
3. Sustainability focus
Completion of level three results in a written sustainability strategy constructed through team based engagement. Now everyone is engaged and moving from reactionary behaviors to proactionary behaviors.
Level Four: Operationalize
With even greater clarity from the areas in Level Three, now it is time to focus on reinforcing loyalty among:
By operationalizing these four areas allows for a total integrated strategy and a culture of continuous improvement.
Level Five: Transformation
If all previous levels have been successfully executed, this level looks to further strengthen alignment, innovation and stewardship. The people, processes and systems have been aligned with a greater appreciation of the benefits from being more sustainable specific to all resources. At this level, the culture of the organization is one of transformation with the employees going beyond being leaders to truly being visionary in their behaviors.
Many small businesses that had constrained resources have practiced sustainability for years from recycling carbon paper to using both sides of paper to reducing paper consumption through electronic file sharing. Today those same firms can leverage those past best operational practices into creating a competitive advantage and truly transforming the culture of the organization creating a win for the:
P.S. Shout Out To: Dick’s Restaurant in St. John celebrating 50 years in business and Tate’s Place in Portage.
National Institute of Standards and Technology
The Institute for Sustainability