Sustainability has become a popular term in recent times and not just in relation to maintaining and preserving the earth’s natural resources such as water or trees or the air. Sustainability is now applied to all individual and collective efforts made by people (in commercial organizations, local councils, cities, government departments and charitable entities etc) to preserve energy and natural resources at every possible level. The simple idea here is that the combined efforts of every individual can significantly assist in a number of ways, including helping to preserve, Energy resources, Plants and forests, Water resources, Land resources (and the capacity to produce food), Clean air and Consumables (by minimizing waste). In so doing, we can have a positive impact on climate change, acid rain, deforestation, soil erosion, over-fishing, water pollution etc and help to create a more natural equilibrium between man and the planet earth in the process.
For organizations of all kinds, ways of working more sustainability can take many forms from reorganizing working conditions, changing work practices, using eco-friendly strategies of all kinds and utilizing green technologies to make adjustments. However, in the most basic terms, to create a sustainable business of any kind requires a systematic plan of action to be taken. This plan would need at least some if not all of the following steps. To plan to:
- Cut energy usage of all kinds (reductions of 50%-75% are commonplace)
- Cut Travel and Transportation (reductions in transport expenses of 50% have been reported in some firms)
- Design and procure materials and consumables in more “green” ways
- Use less water and re-use it more often (cuts of 30% are commonplace and re-use can be lifted by 50%)
- Reduce raw material inputs to the minimum possible (reductions by up to 50% have been regularly reported)
- Eliminate toxic materials (this can be done very quickly and completely)
- Reduce emissions and keep the air clean (reductions of over 40% are commonplace)
- Eliminate or convert waste (reductions of over 50% are commonplace or opportunities have been found to turn waste in one organization to a cost-effective raw material input in another)
Although it is not designed to be comprehensive the sustainability diagram shown here provides six steps that can be progressively taken to become more focused and to be more successful in the future. Starting at the top right and moving clockwise these are Establish, Nurture, Understand, Develop, Review and Evaluate. In the centre of the template is a Sustainability Checklist that can be useful to look at environmental strategy in a general way.