Sustainability has emerged as a growing hype in various levels of society. It is hard to miss a reference to the ‘sustainability’ buzz word in any science or emerging technology journal or business innovation magazine.
This may seem like a new trend, however if you think of it, businesses have ‘sustained’ themselves for many years and various societies have ‘sustained’ for much longer than our current one. What is changing is the way the various levels of sustainability are being integrated.
Most people think of environmental requirements for present and future generations when they hear sustainability. On the other hand, if you are roaming in a business environment, it is often thought of in a financial sense. However these areas are not as segregated as one would think when considering sustainable solutions.
We have always argued that a truly sustainable solution should have an environmental, economic, and social goal, and most importantly, a sustainable leadership mind-set in order to succeed. A company that thrives to be sustainable ought to have short-term and long-term plans for each of these development areas.
Sustainability is intrinsically driven by creative change, innovation and adaptation driven by a sustainable leadership. Think for example in the context of a society. The societies that sustained for the longest are the ones that could resolve crises creatively; however the ones that could not, faced an inevitable decline. The same can be said for sustainable businesses.
The long-term success of a business does not only depend on the amount of profit it makes, but how it creates and maintains a long-term positive cash flow. This requires sustainability and leadership-driven planning on the following four levels:
Companies that incorporate a true effort to optimize the principles of efficiency in resource usage, sustainable energy use, environmental consciousness and empowering sustainable personal leadership are not just doing this for their own ‘peace of mind’ or to improve the company image, they are also expecting long-term economic benefits from this.
As part of a short-term plan, a sustainable leadership empowering training program, a reduction of energy costs and leaner operations as far as resource usage will have a direct effect on the bottom line of the company.
Companies that make this ‘4 E principle’ part of their longer term plans and make a larger investment in this (e.g. solar power installation, bio-fuel powered fleet, sustainable leadership training, etc.) will benefit from a longer-term reward, both on the level of lower operation costs and the level of costumer retention (especially if sustainability is not just a “feels good” slogan, but a significant part of the companies leadership, vision and mission).
Especially with the growth of social media in companies business strategies, the social effect of sustainability is become more significant and a differentiator in how companies position themselves in the marketplace.
More and more companies are putting more effort into ‘helping a cause’ as part of their strategy. Of course this is not without a purpose to receive a corresponding ROI (return on investment) and expected growth and expansion, but nevertheless there are plenty of examples where this form of sustainability has benefited society in the long run.
Another level of this is at the increased employee retention, which a company that puts more effort into sustainable personal leadership for its people typically has. This also benefits the growth of the company if one thinks about how much time and money it costs to replace an employee.
Of course the initial goal of a company is to maintain a positively growing bottom line. Short term sales goals with sustainable profit margins and a long term vision of growth, product diversification and new market entry are strategies that maintain a sustainable business from a financial perspective.
Without this, a company could put all the effort it wants in being socially, environmentally sustainable and energy efficient, but in the end if it doesn’t make enough money, it is evident that none of its stakeholders input or its good intended efforts will sustain.
4. Sustainable Leadership
Every sustainable action, project, programs are developed by people. Consequently, for sustainability to succeed it is irreplaceable to empower and educate people to understand, practice, master and move their lives and business in a sustainable way.
So, having a sustainable leadership or a leadership knowing how to be driven by sustainability at personal and corporate levels is vital for sustainability to be successful in every angle. Everyone and every company developing sustainable projects and programs has to put high emphasis on teaching, coaching and instructing sustainability to form sustainable based leaders with resolved minds.
As we know from our concept of system where everything is connected and everything affects everything, having sustainable leadership principles, that drive all what we do personally and in business, are a backbone component to sustainability. It accomplishes its purpose in our lives, families, business, as well as, in all that we plan, do and develop.
Practically speaking, any sustainable efforts and programs that aim to have long-term success should initiate an intensive, sustainable leadership with a resolved mind-set education program that extends to everyone involved in running the company.
Sustainability – The Commitment to These Four Levels
In general terms, if a company maintains a commitment at these four levels it is often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which drives sustainability. Interestingly this statement can easily be turned around as sustainability driving CSR and the company leadership.
Finally, it is important to understand that sustainability requires change, training and education. However this change needs to be with a purpose, with a clear goal, a true innovation in itself and plenty of guidance and preparation. This change for sustainability quite often requires a change in attitude, mind-set and lifestyle.
Sustainable cities and green buildings, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and green chemistry are just a few examples to think off, where lifestyle conditions are required to conserve resources. The ability to change and the influence of sustainable leaders can make a difference between ‘sustaining’ or perishing.
By: Dr. John Kyndt ( Head Scientist of the Advanced Energy Independence Lab) and Dr. Aecio D’Silva, CEO Moura Technologies.