In my post last Friday on David Cameron's little green speech, I mentioned in passing that I thought his vision to lead "the greenest Government ever" was superficially compelling but in reality rather insubstantial. I've been mulling on this over the weekend and thought it was worth expanding on - as I explain in The Green Executive, a vision is an important element of an effective sustainability strategy.
Having a compelling vision gives you a touchstone around which you can develop your strategy, lead your troops and fall back on when difficult decisions loom. However, it is also a big stick for others to beat you with when you either fall short or, more importantly, are perceived to fall short. So when, say, the solar industry gets upset about the cut to the Feed In Tariff, the cry immediately goes up "how can you call yourselves the greenest Government ever?"
The problem for the politicians is that different people have different views on what "greenest" means. For some, steady progress over what has gone before is quite sufficient, for others whatever is achieved will never be enough. If your vision is vague, the threshold will be set by the observer - and of course the press will define the way that suits the particular article they are writing.
Flooring giant Interface got around this by having "Mission Zero" as their vision - a zero impact on the environment by 2020. This is brilliant as it is both compelling and absolute - it can be measured against. Below the overall vision are seven objectives - the 'seven faces of Mount Sustainability' as the company calls them - which allow more precise measurement. These thresholds also provide some backside cover if an unexpected issue arises.
So the ideal vision has a compelling big picture AND some precise objectives to define the bottom line - what you really mean by that big picture. Set the thresholds or others will set them for you. OK, Dave?