For Enduring Sustainability, Follow Your True North

Every day we observe different drivers and problems for going green throughout industry, society, and science.  The scope of sustainability is huge.   Not only the breadth of issues and initiatives, but also the numbers attached to them.  What does 30 billion tons of carbon really look like?  How much will 5.7 terawatt hours of renewable electricity power? These quantities are alien for most of us, so outside of our daily systems of measurement it takes a while for them to come into focus.

When a problem is studded with variable factors changing on a regular basis, it’s easy to slip into a mental gridlock similar to the “paradox of choice”,  where too many options repel us from moving forward.

To beat these feelings of defeat and paralysis, we often look for a “decision maker”.  A decision maker sometimes looks like a Corporate Social Responsibility Director.  It can also look like an established guideline on reducing carbon emissions.  For instance, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and COP21 have set targets to focus policy and development to prevent our climate from rising 2 degrees celsius and how to adapt a growing population with limited resources.  Likewise, corporate sustainability pioneers like Toyota and Siemens for example, have very public sustainability plans.

These can all serve as models for sustainable targets, removing the effort and stress of wading through a vast sea of information and trying to make sense of it.

While the intentions are good, we need to tread carefully.  Adopting other’s environmental targets will likely lead to an ultimate failure of a sustainability pivot.

Since these solutions are not cut to fix our company, we’ll be left looking for problems that either don’t exist in our business or that aren’t the biggest problem.  In the end, this causes more waste, dissatisfied and detached employees, and a delay in progress when every minute counts.

Instead of searching for a “decision maker”, companies should look for a “decision facilitator”, a True North that guides everyone in the organization to continuously improve their own work, bit by bit.

A company’s True North is unique to their business.   It’s defined by the value you provide to all of your stakeholders:  people, planet, and profit.  Knowing your customers well, you can learn to identify value and non-value to each of these stakeholders in your value streams.   What we are doing in our companies is creating a special kind of green waste specific to our business. 

Let others’ targets only inspire you to find a solution that  concentrates on your unique green waste.

Categories: Fundamentals, New Post, waste

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