Sustainability momentum is growing in our global community. Whether you are a student, a startup or a business owner, sustainability is the new society wave.
Yet, the definition of sustainability largely used today is surrounded by a huge misconception and does not carry the same meaning, for people coming from different backgrounds and cultures.
Traditionally, sustainability has been perceived as the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely, as well as to manage crops wisely. Hence, for a long time, we can say that sustainability has been associated with hunters and gatherers social ancestral behavioral roots. But in today’s age, if this definition is still accurate, it is way too restrictive.
Sustainability is better defined by the ability to manage and match our resources effectively, with conscious and profitable business practices.
Despite the culture we come from, despite the level and complexity of the organization, the concept of sustainability is deeply related to our capacity to really look deeply at things. Looking beyond short-term focus, beyond just your generation and really feel how your actions impact broader groups of people.
Communities such as Buddhist, Vegans, Tree planters, volunteers influencing animal- welfare policy and company’s effort to be environmentally friendly; all participate actively in creating sustainable living principles that really matter.
For that purpose, companies must commit to social and environmentally responsible practices.
In other terms, Common sense must become common practice.
Some definitions of sustainability and sustainable development
. Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
( Brundtland commission 1987)
. The possibility that humans and other forms of life will flourish forever. ( John Ehrenfeld, professor Emeritus. MIT )
. Enough – for all – for ever. ( African delegate to Johannesburg )
We’ve started with Fair Trade. Now we need more enlightened companies. Patagonia is one of them. They partnered with Verite, a nonprofit that works to create a fair condition for workers globally.
Auditing, reporting and managing properly, our resources and capital, is critical, in this new era, to achieve the degree of sustainability, necessary to make the world a better place.
For too long we have tapped into our planet resources, like a giant supermarket without any supply limits. Without any ethic. We have never integrated into any accountant balance sheet, the invisible cost of wasted resources, destruction of our biodiversity and exploitation of people and animals. Without any responsibility, climate change, wars and misery will just keep knocking on our doorstep.
The Natives have shared their vision. Our planet must be honored and not mastered. They have taught us that we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, but only borrow it from our children; and that once we would have caught the last bird, fished the last fish and cut the last tree, only then, will we realize that money could not be eaten.
Today people want to correct mistakes that have been committed in the name of greed.
The Wall street movement has pointed out, for instance, major abuses committed by financial institutions and companies. Creating and entertaining in people’s mind the belief that money is evil, when it is only a tool. This belief has often led Millennium to the point where they brought the pendulum, in the completely opposite direction; by completely disregarding financial capital.
The problem is that, if for some projects we can completely set aside the financial aspect, most often, a project, mission or innovation, will need to raise capital in order to maintain a sustainable cycle. In fact, it is fair to say that the movers and shakers, paving the way, in this rapidly changing times, are the conscious entrepreneur and green investors.
They are a new breed of sustainable earth ambassadors. As well as any person that participates in green business practices; whether capital is raised financially, materially or by getting involved with time and energy.
In fact, different forms and shapes of sustainability’s relevance exist today, across cultures, organization, and communities. That diversity is a good thing. Not one culture can plant the sustainable flag and claim themselves, yet, as sustainable champions.
For instance, on one hand the third world countries who have really developed the concept of sustainability; they could even be hostile to it, and sometimes see the concept as a threat to their ancestral way of life. But they are not the world’s great polluters.
On the other hand, the world’s most powerful economies pointing the finger to what must be defined as the new way of acting in a sustainable way; but these countries are the most industrialized and have had the greatest negative impact on our biodiversity.
It is critical to understand where everyone comes from, recognizing mistakes that have been made, and then, changing habits and behaviors, in a sustainable fashion. Anyway, do we really have a choice? If we do not change fast, we will have the same destiny as the people still dancing and singing on The Titanic after crashing into the iceberg. They did not realize that the boat was sinking.
We cannot look anymore by the window while the house is burning. We must sit down together, come with a new vision and define the world we want to create. A sustainable world where our children will reap the fruits that we have seeded for them.
So where do we start from here? 3 simple steps
Everything starts with awareness. Knowing where we are today and where we are going is vital. In other terms having the compass, the road map and the change we want to see.
Knowing how many resources are left and at what speed they are disappearing is crucial. Some scientist and journalist such as Elizabeth Kolbert speak about the sixth extinction happening today, and that should get you spinning your wheels. After all aren’t we in between and the next in line after the polar bear and the tropical frogs rapidly dying. Only a global audit will be able to show us the degree of our true impact and our planet carrying capacities.
2. A deep sense of urgency.
Most communities have to awaken and understand the need to change.Change is the only thing that does not change. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, who speaks for the trees has transformed entire generations into human beings that really care. But this is not enough. We still consume today in a way that does not meet sustainability. Our destruction strength is still greater than the allocated time we need to develop and reach sustainability properly. So we need to act fast and get together.
3. Build and integrate existing communities.
We need to work together in a collaborative way, not a competitive way. Then create, adjust and harmonize sustainable processes at every level. For instance, G4 guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative ( GRI ) and UN Millennium Development Goals are creating benchmarks in environmental excellence.
When it comes to sustainability models, it is like trying to know a little who came first between the chicken and the egg. Because across ages and cultures, the meaning of sustainability has evolved and branched out.
Grasping fully a sustainable model requires at the same time, to pay attention to ramifications starting locally and expanding globally. As well as seeing and foreseeing the global and broad perspective, of what is happening today, on earth, and see how these global effects fit locally.
Since both are completely interconnected and interdependent in today’s global village, best chances to get a clear view to improving a sustainability model, your energy bill, and the world at the same time, would be to navigate back and forth, on a regular base, from a large scope to your very local home.
An important question. How could we re-align our values, processes, and needs with earth best interest? And indeed live in a peaceful and harmonious healthy planet. A planet that is respected as a living entity similar to the Gaia theory elaborated by James Lovelock.
Schools and education
If you want to make sure the fruit is ripe. Take it from the tree. Well, this applies to the human kind. The new generation comes fresh, full of ideas and projects.
They have this new brain software, better wired to the reality they live in….when they are not on their video games.
They are liberated from ancestral memories, habits and behaviors and are as sharp as razor blades.
Since society is changing in all forms and shapes, and they are the ones who will be living in the future, schools need to adapt, in a sustainable way.
A new school system that will make sure that our children are, at a very early age, learning the principles of sustainability. Most students and schools do not suffer from a lack of vision, but a lack of knowledge on how to manage resources efficiently and raise capital in order to fulfill educational programs and projects.
The good news is that this movement has already begun. Blended schools are flourishing everywhere. HTE is one great example. Kids get together to lead projects as grown up would.
They learn how to gather data on the internet, work with the resources they have, contact experts and speak up publicly to present full-blown projects that nurture the environment. ( The rehabilitation of the Monarch Butterfly in southern California is just one of these awesome projects led by these schools.)
Schools must become the foundation of our society and work hand in hand with companies paving the way to embrace change. For more information on finding a good school,
go to schoolchoices.org
Companies must make sustainability and inclusive growth, a cornerstone of it the strategic framework.
In fact, businesses that will adapt to the early bird strategy of developing audits and certifications in their practice, speared toward sustainability, will be the ones with the greater chances of penetrating the marketplace with success.
Products and services value are shifting in the mind of the receiver. Buyers want to know the company’s ethic chart, regarding the environment and how they address societal challenges to generate sustainable livelihoods opportunities for everyone. Customers, employees, suppliers and mostly for the most vulnerable people involved in the process.
True or not, the perception of the product or service, is key to the party looking for green practice behaviors and values. And it better be true, because if companies fake it, people will smell it. And as much as it takes a lot of time to build a reputation, even in this digital age, critical online reviews can destroy this reputation in a heartbeat.
Besides and beyond good reputation, people and companies are really looking, for more transparency, when they buy a product or a service. So that shift is really good for all the community. Too many abuses with labeling and packaging are still witnessed.
In addition to labeling and reporting properly, data collection systems, timely planning, supply chains, as well as all forms and types of channels will need to comply with the customer preference. For that reason, audits and inventories related to sustainability, will drastically grow in the near future, and set new standards in terms of laws, regulations and labels.
Therefore, growth strategies that nations and corporations employ must embrace a distinct effort to preserve precious environmental resources. Environment, economy, people, and culture, as the four pillars of sustainability, must be integrated and balanced accordingly.
The lack of distribution in the globalization process where a few concentrate all resources is an old economic model that has failed. This triangle of waste, poverty and crime exploited by mafias and unwilling governments to make change happen must come to an end, and engender a new paradigm shift that redefines human values.
For example, the recent explosion of a chemical factory in China has shifted the expectation of the people towards their government and regulations. People want answers.
Needless to say that, in the near future, energy laws will pop out of the box. The most responsible countries will get together, to vote laws that engage each other. Energy audits regulations and certifications will automatically follow and each citizen and company will have to adapt to this new way of life.
Here are some powerful questions people usually ask or should be asking themselves.
- How is my way of consuming energy affecting / improving the planet?
Is it sustainable?
- What does the planet need that I can act on right now?
- Who can guide me towards the best way of adapting to the new change coming?
- How does a complete energy audit can help me understand where and what I stand for?
- What are the best technologies to go energy free today?
- What are the threats to our world energy and resources?
- What will be the new energy audit laws and regulation?
- What can be done more effectively due to scale?
- Where are we in the collective integration process?
- How can we calculate and take into account the financial value of all environmental and social resources?
- Acknowledging the importance of nature, how do we implement that on a balance sheet?
- What kind of activist are you? What are you willing to fight for?
Sustainability evolution, trends, and future.
Sustainability trend and evolution for the next decade will fully embrace the power of the digital wave.
We are moving toward a sustainable global economy. What does this mean for us? A complete integration of the data chain geared toward a sustainable model.
This platform will become a global reference for all companies and stakeholders, with common shared values. This space will allow our society to expand organically.
With reports that support decision-making processes; that evaluate and monitor external business factors; and that take, adjust and fine tune into business accounting, sustainable management such as:
. Collecting and reporting
. Analyzing and prioritizing
. Implementing and monitoring
This sustainable managerial approach will need to focus on sustainable business performance guidelines. With specific measuring rating tools, sociologist, environmentalist, companies and investors will know what are the crucial investments needed for immediate change and long-term impact.
Here are some of the most vital points that will be expected by a sustainable managerial approach.
. Delivering social initiative that engages synergetic activities
. Auditing and Monitoring resources
. Expanding renewable energy generation
. Reducing social inequity and lack of education
. Reducing and monitoring ecosystem waste and pollution
. Developing risk awareness for companies and suppliers
. Ensuring legal compliance
. Creating world-class products and brands
This SWOT ( Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats ) analysis will help all parties contribute to larger societal goals.
Audits and inventory geared toward sustainability.
Eco-citizen, social justice, corporate social responsibility and sustainability data will be tomorrow’s new form of currency.
Sustainability data will be treated like the new gold rush with collection and rating agencies specialized in the treatment and accuracy of the data. Sustainability data will grow exponentially driven at the same time by consumers, stakeholders and investors, as well as governments, institutions, and civil organizations. It is fair to say that sustainability data will rise as a new economic index and benchmark, that societies will need to evaluate wisely. The vitality of their economic biosphere is at stake.
For that purpose, biodiversity, economy, and digital technology will merge together as one entire new sector, completely integrated.
This new benchmark and vision will be the road map to create Tomorrowland, for our leaders and innovators, with core values eternally nurtured.
Corporation will exponentially have to adapt their behavior, as well as their branding and marketing around the new green core values rising today. Whether they interact with customers, employees or doing B to B, they will need to prove that all of their activity complies with sustainability and today’s human evolution.
Immediate change and long-term impact
A wide range of sustainable solutions exist today and they are becoming the new global reference. Because expectations have changed, companies who apply green business practice, want to work with companies that apply the green business practice. From this standpoint, is not too premature to say that the revolution will be spreading in all areas.
The next step will be dealing with sustainability reports and audits credibility. We all remember AAA stocks falsely rated, to gain buyers attention. That ended in crashing our economy and throwing out of their homes entire families.
So sustainable audits, reports as well as their application will need to be monitored and rated by consultants from independent companies. Recognized by the community, as reliable green practices, with proven track record. This will reinforce audit’s accuracy and application.
Sustainability will become for sure tomorrow’s driving force, fueled by demand, management confidence, reputational risk and investors opportunities.
Sustainability in the supply chain will deal with the process and the scope of sustainable behavior.
Companies will need to walk their talk. Embed and implement charts, define targets and alliances in a code of good conduct that values positively oriented actions. All done under the terms of respect and responsibility for the environment, the climate, and the people.
Sustainable brands and companies
Sustainability is very similar to branding and marketing. Because it inspires the human experience.
In this day and age, the global consciousness has raised to the point where major brands and companies need brand ambassadors to maintain and increase their brand. For that purpose, they need to integrate, a concrete and perceptive management approach within a sustainable corridor of best habits and practices. In other terms all major brands and companies must now be navigating within the boundaries of what is and will be defined as a sustainable label.
We are netting together a new code of conduct and seeding brands, at the root level, with sustainable DNA.
A brand is what it stands for. A brand is a promise that must be kept again and again. And when you keep a promise, you build trust that becomes brand loyalty. And this transforms in brand equity. People only want to do business with a brand that respects and aligns itself with their core values. But without sustainability embedded in their brand strategy, this will never happen. That’s why, tomorrow’s winners and business leaders will be the ones, most efficient at creating a brand strategy, with sustainability in its heart.
The result of committing to embed sustainability in your brand strategy? Brand personality! This is the holy Graal for brand achievement. This is when your customer describes your company as if you were a person. This is the Rosetta stone of a sustainable business practice.