Are You Hunting or Farming Sustainability?
One of the most frustrating responses to a potential sustainability solution is “I wish you’d suggested that six months ago when we were replacing that equipment/redesigning that product/moving buildings/launching that new marketing campaign.” It is always six months too late.
This is why you must have incredible anticipation of what the organisation is doing and get in there before new projects start to shape up. Predators like to take their prey before the latter has seen the danger – once they’re trying to escape, catching them gets a lot more difficult and the hunt is more about luck than skill. In the same way, as soon as a new venture starts building momentum, it is very hard to deflect it the way you want it to go. You have to go in for the kill before they have a chance to get moving.
Of course this is another argument for integrating sustainability into the DNA of the organisation. It is very hard for the typical sustainability manager in their green silo to influence big decisions in the rest of their organisation – even the best predators are only successful in a minority of attempts. In the ‘Full Integration’ level of the Sustainability Maturity Model, everyone understands the importance of sustainability to the company so by default the product will be designed for sustainability, the building will be an eco-building and the new equipment will have been chosen to deliver part of the sustainability strategy.
Going back to my predator/prey analogy, this is about farming sustainability rather than hunting it. Farming is a much more successful way of achieving the goal of food production than hunting/gathering, but it involves more preparation, more investment and more patience. In the same way sustainability requires resources, commitment, and investment to do it properly.
You may still have to do the odd bit of hunting, but farming should become your ultimate goal.