Sustainability – The Green Machine?

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ram Nidumolu and M.R. Rangaswami stated that there is no alternative to sustainability development. They are in line with much of what is being said in the business community worldwide. The question is, of course, what does that look like and how do we go about making it all happen?

There is a large concern that customers will not pay more for eco-friendly products – especially during a recession. Here are the main ideas from that article:

  • Sustainability isn’t the burden on bottom lines that many executives believe it to be. In fact, becoming environment-friendly can lower your costs and increase your revenues. That’s why sustainability should be a touchstone for all innovations
  • In the future, only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage. That means rethinking business models as well as products, technologies, and processes.
  • Becoming sustainable is a five-stage process and each stage has its own challenges.

The five stages are straightforward to understand and most companies go through them. Perhaps the most important place to get started is to admit that you/we have a problem. If, despite all the science to the contrary, a company doesn’t admit that we in fact do need to do whatever we can to lessen our impact on the closed ecosystem, then it is unlikely that the company will move toward sustainability. The five stages are:

  • Stage 1: Viewing Compliance as Opportunity
  • Stage 2: Making Value Chains Sustainable
  • Stage 3: Designing Sustainable Products and Services
  • Stage 4: Developing New Business Models; and
  • Stage 5: Creating Next-Practice Platforms

Each Stage of the process of becoming sustainable has its own set of challenges, competencies and opportunities. We’ll take a closer look at each stage in forthcoming posts. This all ties nicely with the work done by Paul Savitz in The Triple Bottom Line. So the question is where are you and your company? Still in denial? Looking at compliance not as a pain, but an opportunity?