Sustainability: Why you need to include sustainability in your strategic business planning?

In our last post, we discussed how sustainability is more than just a fashionable discussion in 2012. Sustainability should be a profitable endeavor and part of your strategic business planning. As you know, the first quarter is likely to set the tone for the remainder of the year. Will you be ahead of the game or struggling to catch up for the remainder of the year?

Let’s take a closer look at the definition of sustainability and how it applies to your strategic business planning. Dictionaries provide more than ten meanings for sustain, the main ones being to “maintain”, “support”, or “endure”. However, since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability and sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

At the 2005 World Summit, it was noted that this requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands – the “three pillars” of sustainability. This view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing. The three pillars – or the “triple bottom line” – have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years. The triple bottom line is also recognized as the global measurement for social and environmental standards of sustainability.

Let’s walk through the model and think about this as it relates to your business.

People: When the area of People stands alone, companies have a tendency to focus on solving problems, putting out fires, and reacting to situations as they appear.

Process: When Processes are not aligned and there is no strategic focus, a departmental mentality starts to bubble to the surface. Variation starts to creep in as each department is focused on self-interest in lieu of process alignment. A silo-oriented attitude is developed.

Environment: When companies focus solely on Environmental issues apart from their strategic direction they are often doing so merely to comply. They “have to,” so, it is viewed as an expense. Or perhaps even worse, they are giving the concept of sustainability lip service because customers or stakeholders are beginning to grumble.

As we start to connect all three components you can actually see how the alignment takes place. There is power in alignment.

When People/Process are brought together it immediately creates innovation, starts to prevent problems, fosters speed, and promotes interdepartmental teams.

As Process/Environment intersects it immediately creates departmental alignment, more efficiency within the supply chain, and promotes an environment of Systems Thinking.

Systems Thinking: The research of Russell Ackoff and Peter Senge is clear: only those organizations that are able to adapt quickly and effectively will be able to excel in their field or market. In order to be a leading organization there must be two conditions present at all times. The first is the ability to design the organization to match the intended or desired outcomes. The second is the ability to recognize when the initial direction of the organization is different from the desired outcome and follow the necessary steps to correct this mismatch.

Organizations that are able to do this are exemplary. Systems Thinking looks at all of the interactions within the organization and in between organizations as a whole.

When People/Environment come together it creates employee engagement, proactive decision-making, and the commitment that sustainability is part of the overall culture which will positively enhance profitability.

This model is a great way to show that the alignment of all of the core components is critical to the success of an organization. If your organization needs to create a more effectively aligned plan, then contact us for a free consultation about how we might help your team achieve a more profitable plan. To set up your free consultation, contact us at:





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About davegregory

Dave Gregory, Chief Learning Officer for Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc., believes in the power of the strengths movement. During the past 15 years, Dave managed the Learning Solutions activities of Qwest’s Mass Markets Group, including call centers, retail stores, indirect retail, e-business, collections, alternative markets and the small business teams. Mr. Gregory graduated from Creighton University’s School of Law in 1993 earning a Juris Doctor. He completed his undergraduate education receiving a BSBA with an emphasis in marketing from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1990. Mr. Gregory has more than 25 years experience in business development and consulting.

One response to “Sustainability: Why you need to include sustainability in your strategic business planning?”

  1. Lee Pemberton says :

    The Future requires us to use our resources we have now in a way they will still be with us tomorrow.

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