What is a Sustainable Organisation?
I hear over and over that the word sustainable has lost any meaning. It is overused. Too broad. Not broad enough. And I tend to agree.
The term sustainable in its truest sense means “to be able to continue in perpetuity”. However, the way that it is most commonly used means something quite different. It is often used to imply that one product has fewer environmental impacts than another. That a company is trying to become more environmental friendly than it used to be. That a government has a plan to reduce environmental impacts over time.
Fewer impacts almost never means no impacts. Yet we tout things as eco-friendly, green, or sustainable nonetheless. We give buildings star ratings to show that they cause less environmental damage than others. We give dishwashers stars for using less water. Yet if we consider whether any of these things are sustainable in the truest sense, the answer is almost always no.
So what would it take to become a sustainable organisation?
A sustainable organisation would not have environmental impacts. It would not use non-renewable raw materials, nor would its operations lead to the disposal of any non-compostable waste. It would operate in a circular economy, with closed-loop cradle to cradle practises. It would contribute to environmental management and restoration.
To become a sustainable organisation is unlikely to be a goal that can be achieved overnight, or in a year. To become truly sustainable may take many years. However, the journey to becoming a sustainable organisation is one that can and should start immediately.
The goal to be sustainable is a goal that all organisations should share. Without a major global shift to towards true sustainability, the planet as we know is unlikely to continue in perpetuity. Already, most major cities are experiencing air-pollution levels that are harmful to human health. Leaching nutrients into water ways are causing major dead zones in rivers, lakes, and oceans. We are losing biodiversity at rates not seen since the demise of the dinosaur. We have changed the global climate.
It is not time for despair however. More and more organisations are making the sorts of changes needed to begin on the path to true sustainability. Ikea are starting to close their manufacturing loop by buying back pre-loved furniture from their customers. Last year, global solar energy capacity increased by almost 30%, vastly exceeding predictions for growth. Several species such as the gray wolf have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
If you are ready to put your organisation onto the pathway to becoming truly sustainable, but need a little help finding your way – gives us a call to see if we can help. At Ecometrics we aim to help organisations set ambitious long-term sustainability plans and then achieve them.