What timeframe should a sustainability strategy cover?
Last night we got back from a long weekend in Belfast to a glorious sight. OK, it may not look like much to you, but these are our first flowers we have ever seen on the wisteria we planted at the front of our house almost 10 years ago. In an age of weekend garden makeovers, some things just can’t be rushed – and it feels like much more of an achievement for it.
It’s the same sustainability strategy – some things take time to bloom and must be planned for well in advance. The optimum timescale depends on the type of business – asset intensive businesses such as chemical producers will take longer to transform than, say, a software company. In general, in my experience, a timeframe of less than three years tends to make people focus too much on current pressures and trends, whereas a longer timeframe gives more freedom to think freely. However if you go over 10 years, I find people won’t take ownership of initiatives as many will assume they will have moved on after that – there is also a tendency to believe that technology will come to the rescue. So 3-10 years is a sensible range to pick from.
Of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be pursuing shorter term goals in the meantime – a bit like planting annuals while plants like our wisteria comes to maturity. And if you are really clever, like Woking Council, you can structure your programme so the economic returns from quick wins are used to finance the longer term investments which will deliver broader business benefits.