Don’t be a Sustainability Sheep
I took most of Friday off to go and help Mrs K move office at Durham University. So I decided to cycle down and, on the way back, I thought I’d take a diversion and see the memorial in Haswell to world champion cyclist Tom Simpson who died on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France in 1967 (with a gut full of brandy and amphetamines, but lets gloss over that).
Haswell is in East Durham, an extremely deprived part of the country and it really showed – many of the houses were boarded up and the memorial was locked behind the community centre fence. But the weird thing is the roads – the whole area is covered in A-roads, many of them dual carriageways. You see the same thing in South East Northumberland – dual carriageways and A-roads criss-crossing the area, but without an obvious employment base (and a nightmare if you’re a cyclist looking for a quiet route).
The reason for this, of course, is that there has always been a mantra that economic regeneration requires infrastructure. So they built the roads and… nothing. But they kept building roads. So we have roads and precious little industry for them to serve.
I suspect they did this because a. it was what everybody else was doing and b. they couldn’t think of anything else to do. Like sheep they just follow the crowd.
I often find that Sustainability practitioners fall into the same trap. They don’t know what to do, so they do what everybody else does, no matter whether it works or not. So there is a whole raft of generic activity, much of which is of dubious benefit. But at least people feel they are doing something…
My approach to Sustainability is completely different. Whether I am doing Sustainability Strategy or Employee Engagement, or both, I tailor everything to the organisation concerned. So the strategy gets built around the business drivers and the engagement gets built around the existing culture. I do this because I’ve tried a lot of stuff and ditched the ideas that don’t work.