Posts Tagged environment Performance Architect update 42/2011

Initiatives for sustainable organizational performance

Continuing the exploration of ways for organizations to do more for biodiversity and environmental sustainability, here are three novel initiatives that may be established by any organization:

  1. Adopt a threatened animal species, plant species and habitat. In addition to the donations allocated to programs dedicated to their protection, such an approach would also raise awareness with both internal and external stakeholders. It would have a motivational factor for staff, knowing that through their work they do something for giving back to the environment. Thus, the company sponsored animal species and company sponsored plant would be symbols of organizational concerns towards the environment and complement their business driven role.
  2. Launch of a product or service with all profits generated through its sales donated to non-profits running programs focused on sustainability issues. A number of such examples already exist, with proceeds dedicated to humanitarian or research causes. Dedicating such an initiative to environmental causes, would complement the emphasis put on Corporate Social Responsibility.
  3. Donate 1% of revenues to environmental causes. Established in 2002, 1% for the Planet is a not-profit organization that has established a network of over 1,400 companies across 44 countries willing to allocate at least 1% of revenues (top line sales) directly to non-profit organizations focused on issues of sustainability. The donations can be allocated to non-profits selected from a list of over 2,600 pre-approved non-profit organizations from around the world. Not surprisingly, most of the companies that have committed to this cause are privately held.

Through such initiatives and similar other ones, organizations can gradually bridge the separation between business and environmental/sustainability issues. Protecting the environment should be seen as part of the business, built in the business model. Success stories such as Interface demonstrate the benefits of such approaches. However corporate environmental initiatives should not be seen as something that is in scope for large companies and market leaders only. Each organization, small or large has a footprint that should be acknowledged and compensated for. A change of mentalities and business models may be necessary for such a transition, enabling smaller, more agile companies to be at the forefront of such a change.

In addition to the organizational level impact, a secondary benefit of such initiatives is at individual level, as awareness in sustainability issues would cascade down from organizational level to employee level, thus being amplified through social networks. Ultimately both individuals and organizations have a footprint on the environment and a shared sense of responsibility should exist at both levels.

Aurel Brudan
Performance Architect, Performance Architect update 41/2011

Sustainability as a strategic theme or Balanced Scorecard perspective

In two of my previous blog posts I addressed the link between biodiversity, sustainability and performance, raising questions around the role each organization has in addressing these issues. Companies such as Interface have demonstrated that efforts to reduce carbon footprint and environmental stewardship practices are rewarded by customers and the stockmarket. Such examples are for now exceptions and more can be done to embed sustainability practices in organizations. Besides theory and rhetoric, there are a number of practical ideas that are worth exploring:

  • At a business philosophy level, environmental concerns need to be at the core of the business model and not be seen simply as a marketing / public relations stunt. Sustainability is today a key value driver of organizational performance.
  • Environmental / sustainability statements elements should be used across organizational performance management systems and not in isolation. While specific organizational wide environmental plans and reports are useful, elements of environmental rhetoric should appear in mission and vision statements, values and other elements of the corporate identity. Being at the core of who and what the organization is, sends a strong message both internally and externally.
  • Environmental / sustainability components should also have a prominent role in the organizational strategy. While many organizations have objectives and KPIs dedicated to these aspects, there is merit in considering sustainability a dedicated strategic perspective. The traditional approach of grouping organizational Balanced Scorecards in strategic perspectives is structured around: Financial, Customer, Internal Processes and Learning & Growth. One of the most powerful catalysts of increasing this profile is the inclusion of a sustainability perspective in addition to the traditional four perspectives of the Balanced Scorecard. Ultimately organizations don’t operate in a vacuum, as the environment influences their activity. A possible name for it is Corporate Environmental Responsibility or Sustainability, with objectives related to aspects such as: nurturing biodiversity, footprint reduction and community support.
  • A less drastic alternative to establishing a sustainability perspective is the use of a strategic theme that cuts across organizational strategy (and Strategy Map), linking sustainability related objectives and KPIs. A benefit of this would be a clear articulation of the financial support dedicated to sustainability aspects, as a subset of the financial perspective.

Some might say “we are in the business of making money for our shareholders”, however as the current system of ensuring biodiversity and sustainability is failing, perhaps the role of companies in this context needs to be revisited. While many programs are underway in organizations around the world, more can be done in terms of inclusion of staff across the organization, as well as inclusion of organizations of all sizes in aligning their performance management system with sustainability.

Aurel Brudan
Performance Architect,