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Agree - Everyone, Everywhere

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Sustainable thinking needs to permeate all aspects of a business and be thoroughly understood by all employees. Whether you have 5 or 5,000 people, if you change their behaviour (including your own), then you have changed the company.

 

To be clear, this is not a case of deviously handing the responsibility for the world’s problems from the company to the individual in the same way that fossil fuel companies invented personal carbon calculators to make it look as though individuals were responsible for emissions rather than them.

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An entire cultural shift is needed to make sure that everything is consistently questioned through a sustainability lens.

 

For example, if everyone in the organization instinctively challenges their purchasing on behalf of the company (and indeed at home), significant change can occur.

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This approach does, however, come with a small health warning. It is the responsibility of those taking action to consider the likely consequences, some of which can be unforeseen. Every action has a reaction. There will inevitably be tensions when balancing corporate impacts on people versus the planet. Eventually, something has to give. Jumping to solutions can lead to unwanted or unforeseen consequences. Here’s a simple example. In good faith, a company decides to reduce the impact of buying materials in their supply chain from a developing country overseas, thereby lowering carbon emissions and transportation costs. As a result of this, people in that underdeveloped community are deprived of the income that they had, so there is an unfortunate knock-on effect on the livelihood of that poorer community.

 

So doing the right thing on sustainability matters is not always as simple as one might think. In almost every business category, the issue has many moving parts. There is often built-in complexity and decisions are rarely binary – choose A or B. Instead, there is usually a chain reaction that needs to be scrutinized and anticipated.

 

 

Many businesses have felt they were on the right track only to be confronted by the unexpected – Donald Rumsfeld’s so-called Unknown Unknowns. Pandemic, war, shortage of parts, and inflation are all ‘unexpected’ and are often used as an excuse or distraction to deviate from long term sustainability goals. It is tempting to put out short term fires under the heading of a crisis or business survival and use these as excuses to delay sustainability initiatives. But it is detrimental in the long run, because it is merely a case of ignoring the chronic in favour of the acute.

 

 

Taken from The Sustainable Business Book

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