A leader in sustainability since 1982
ARTICLE: Sustainable Management: The New Green Rush
Organizations of all sizes are realizing that managing resources in a sustainable manner can increase revenue and lower costs. Both are important to determine one of the very few business metrics that matter: shareholder value. But managing sustainably has environmental and social advantages too — shifting the focus from shareholder value to stakeholder value.
Sustainable management revolves around the concept of triple bottom line accounting. The triple bottom line considers people, planet and profit (as opposed to the more traditional bottom line of just profit). The concept behind sustainable management is to systematically address the environmental, social and economic impacts resulting from the operational activities of your organization — as part of your organization's overall strategy. But you don't have to go from 0 to 60 in one year. In fact, it will likely take many years for your organization to work towards being truly sustainable. However, with a systematic process to guide the effort, real progress can be made in a short period of time.
Having a strategic Sustainable Management Plan can provide a structured way to add value to five important aspects of organizational performance:
- Brand Management — Convey your commitment to sustainability to protect a strong brand, or as a differentiation strategy.
- Human Resources Advantages — Embrace sustainability to attract top talent who are interested in being a part of a responsible organization, motivate current employees to identify operational improvements or retain employees in a competitive job market.
- Risk Management — Manage risks through training and awareness on safety, social and environmental liabilities and documented response techniques.
- Cost Savings — Continuously promote resource and process efficiency, and give employees the forum to suggest improvements.
- New Opportunities — Encourage innovation, systems thinking and identification of new revenue streams or markets.
Each Sustainable Management Plan must be tailored to the operations of your organization and align with your organization's overall strategic position. For example, the operational impacts (and therefore opportunities for efficiency) will be very different for a K-12 school district verses a restaurant chain. Within a K-12 district, one of the most important aspects of operations is community outreach, which effects both funding as well as the mission of the district. In contrast, a restaurant chain's key issue is supply chain management.
By identifying opportunities that affect the inputs and outputs of your specific organization, you will be able to design a management system that not only makes the most impact from a sustainability standpoint, but that will also contribute to sustaining your business through competitive advantage. Finding the most impactful opportunities can be facilitated by an outside consultant, or by an internal team or champion dedicated to investigating operations from the perspective of resource conservation. Using an iterative approach, where the focus is both on short and long term wins will move your organization towards sustainability through continuous improvement.
About the Author
Sally Blair, EI, LEED AP O+M/CI, leads AEC's efforts to address environmental issues effected by clients' business operations through the development and implementation of Sustainable Management Systems (SMS). Corporations, municipalities, and organizations throughout the world are developing environmental policies to solidify their commitments to sound environmental practices. She facilitates the creation of these policies, as well as the implementation plan that contributes to achieving the policy's objectives.