In a recent Planetizen article, Building got Resilience Makes (Good Business) Sense, author Sarene Marshall discussed an Urban Land Instiute (ULI) report regarding weather-related disasters due to climate change and the need for architects to build with resilience in mind.
Although the thinking is in general good, to think ahead and be able to plan for anything, it raises a larger question about priorities. Are we merely concerned with treatment, or are we concerned with a cure? If we invest in building up our world to be able to withstand the pressures of climate change instead of investing in reducing greenhouse emissions, increasing energy efficient practices, and getting our climate back to where it should be then we aren’t really making anything better or improving the situation. The question is, how can businesses work to cure climate change instead of merely treat its symptoms?
First things first, you need to define what sustainability means to your company and how you plan on implementing it. Just like your business plan, it should include long-term and short-term goals. It should also be clearly outlined in the business plan, tracked, and shared with all workers, clientele, and business partners. A set of sustainable practices should be developed, along with a sustainability development plan that will ensure that sustainability efforts increase and succeed with business overtime. In short, you need to develop a clear sustainable business strategy before you can hope to implement it.
Once you have thoroughly outlined your business strategy, you then have to implement it into the structure and operations of the business so that it is an integral core for success. In the same way that you take measures to develop a secure website because it’s the foundation of your entire online presence, you need to invest in a solid sustainability strategy as the foundation of your longevity, as well as the planet’s. Ultimately, your business’ sustainability strategy needs to go beyond basic office energy conservation and recycling. The sustainability strategy cannot simply be an afterthought, it needs to be so deeply engrained and embedded into the overall business strategy that it is considered an essential aspect to achieving its corporate goals as a whole. Put simply, both need to work symbiotically and in dependent relation to each other to bring about success.
Finally, you need to think of the bigger picture. There needs to be a deep understanding of exactly how your business is impacting the environment, in order to better understand how to minimise that impact, as well making a positive impact. All aspects of your business operations need to focus on the sustainability goal. Products and services, as well as the production processes and shipping methods, even what customers will do with your product should all be thought of in a green and clean way. Clean and energy-efficient technology should also be implemented over non-efficient technology. Although efficient supplies and technology may cost more upfront, they save you more in the long run as well as being cleaner.
Ultimately, if any real change is going to be seen, sustainability needs to move out of the realm of “nice to have” within a business model to “must have.” If it doesn’t become central to business operations, then we will continue to only see short term results instead of long-term gain.
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