Sustainability Efforts Are Action Oriented
Progressive organizations, in attempting to align their values with the values of their clients, have taken to adopting programs, bearing a variety of popular designations. Phrases such as going green, sustainability efforts, carbon-footprint and bio-degradable, capture the essence of which we speak. In providing a context for this piece, I wish to frame for the reader, a rough construct of environmental sustainability. Sustainability describes the need to protect our ecological resources through actions that reconcile our need for social and economic stability. We depend on the resources provided by mother earth and as humans we have a responsibility to maintain balance.
There are many who have rubbished the claim being made by environmentalists about our depleting resources. For them it is a matter of economics rather than practical visible assurances that we are in fact losing much of our diversity in the environment. Those who have a strong desire to protect the natural environment face ridicule and are labeled “tree-huggers”. Making a killing (no pun intended), in the enrichment of their coffers, takes precedence over maintaining the delicate balance between man and his environment.
We hear of spills, deforestation, over-fishing, all of which will have an adverse effect on our future. We hear of animals that were once roaming freely, being at risk due to the behaviors of people who are pre-occupied with maximizing profits. It is not just the rich who ravage the earth’s resources but persons who face economic deprivation, will turn to the only source that will provide some measure of relief. Unfortunately those who face economic dearth are unlikely to share the same level of enthusiasm about sustainability when they are faced with the need to survive. Diminishing resources have now caused people to sit up and take notice. The question is whether it is too little too late.
My interest in how organizations engage their workers in the adapting measures to aid sustainability programs, grew from my own experiences in drafting a Environmental/Sustainability Commitment Contract. To further understand the idea behind sustainable efforts, I uncovered a lot of information that led me to believe that we should be doing more than we are currently pursuing to protect the resources we now have. The contract was developed with the clear description of the steps the company on a whole would pursue and what measureable outcomes were anticipated. A beautiful document evolved. This was the easy part. The other leg was to garner public (employee) support as well as to take small steps that would easily translate into successes. If I were to level blame on the failure of the second leg of the program, it would lie squarely at the feet of our leaders. There was simply no excitement around a cause that would if executed, encourage long term savings over time.
Environmental sustainability is not a fad to attract customers who share that value, nor is it a fad done purely to earn coveted titles and recognition. Our efforts should be grounded in changing our behaviors to preserve the Earth. So from an organizational level, the common language should be recycling. Companies have a unique opportunity to change behaviors that are negative. The more data and actions that are in support of sustainability programs, the more engaged workers will become. Imagine the cascading effect from home to family to community, if our companies leaders adjust the frame in which they view their goals to comprehensible actions. It is not simple, but I guarantee you it can be done.
Copyright Suzette Henry-Campbell 2013
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