Your Worst Sustainable Business Practices

 

Following are several ways that businesses fail when they are attempting to conduct their business in a sustainable manner.  After reading my list, can you think of any other ways that a business fails to embrace Sustainability?

 

Single-impact-driven decisions

 

Under pressure, some companies make decisions on just one aspect of sustainability.  Animal welfare is an example.  An important issue, for sure, but all factors should be considered beyond the welfare of animals, such as environmental, human health and economic considerations.

Be sure you understand the tradeoffs for the longer term.

 

Lack of robust, transparent, measurable and time-bound commitments

 

Generalities don’t work any more. There are still many claims made by business about their sustainability with unproven, vague, unsubstantiated statements.

 

Failure to assign a monetary value to sustainability

 

As AT Kearney has reported (PDF) regarding supply-chain management:  If companies cannot quantify the value of a sustainable supply chain, they aren’t able to justify investments.

Producers and suppliers are not incentivized for sustainable production.  The development of the business case is key.  Your company needs to know and believe in why you’re developing a sustainability strategy and also believe in its positive business outcomes.

You can’t have both leadership and 100 percent risk avoidance.  Smart risk is necessary.

 

Don’t be Paralyzed to Inaction

 

Getting paralyzed by risk aversion

 

Senior management often talks about leadership, then moments later talks about avoiding risk.  Add in the lawyers and naysayers, and you have status quo.

You can’t have both leadership and 100 percent risk avoidance.  Smart risk is necessary.

 

Letting others define your brand

 

It’s hard to believe that companies stand by playing defense when their brand is maligned.  They hope to be caught doing good.  Or they decide to “tell their story more,” as if pushing more information out will connect with people.

“Tellling” is the opposite of what is needed.  Sharing is key.  It’s two-way, listening, being open.

 

Seeing NGOs as the enemy

 

Dismissing your critics is a missed opportunity to learn and get better, or at least get to know the other side better at a human level.  Finding and collaborating with the science and solutions-based NGOs is even a better route to go.

 

Be Flexible in Your Actions

 

Picking winners and losers

 

Don’t worry about the failures and shortcomings and write them off. After all, it’s a journey. Mistakes lead to overcoming hurdles and motivates people to try.

Most stakeholders want sincere effort and recognized the effort even when you fall short.  Focus on the outcomes, not the path to get there. 

 

A one-size-fits-all approach

 

Focus on the outcomes, not the path to get there. For example, the use of innovative technologies should not be automatically accepted or rejected.

Instead, the measure of success should be does it deliver a better, safer, healthier result. Plus, there is no cookie-cutter approach to achieving better sustainable progress.

Take cattle, for example. Raising cattle is dramatically different in Colorado versus Argentina versus Australia. So, concocting specific global process requirement can be counterproductive.

 

Listening without a commitment to truly understand the perspective of others

 

Listening skills, especially for passionate sustainability advocates, can fall short. We are so into the solution as we see it, we don’t listen enough to our partners in supply chain or operations. We end up at odds with them versus serving their needs.

 

Attack Problems Head On

 

Don’t be Satisfied to Play Defense

 

Some see sustainability as complicated, full of trade-offs and hard to understand and grasp by consumers and other stakeholders.  So, they lay low.  Stay out of trouble.  Maybe get caught doing good.

For those that don’t develop a positive and proactive sustainability strategy, good luck in tomorrow’s world and future bottom-line results.  It is an expectation of today’s customers, consumers and your own team members.

 

Answers are a matter of taking an honest approach to the question.

 

It’s obvious that solutions need to be reached with an open mind.  Don’t allow personal perceptions cloud your judgement or rush you into making a decision.

The problems facing business owners today are complex and without an open and honest discussion of the possible solutions can the correct answer be chosen.

 

Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

 

If you would like to calculate your Carbon Footprint, follow the link to the free carbon footprint calculator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.