Sustainability – it’s a hot topic right now. The idea of greening your business has gone beyond the idea of having a recycling program, although that’s a good start.
In Windsor, OCETA organized the event "Sustainability Applied 2011". During the welcome remarks, each attendee was challenged to be moved and inspired to take sustainable actions in your business. In addition to the exciting line-up of speakers and breakout sessions for the day, Kevin Jones, President and CEO of OCETA announced their new launch and branding as Bloom Center for Sustainability or Bloom for short.
For nearly two decades, BLOOM (formerly OCETA) has been working in the public and private sectors to advance the implementation of sustainability initiatives that deliver improved efficiencies, enhanced competitiveness, reduced business risk and a smaller environmental footprint.
The event was kicked off with an evening Gala and Networking event, featuring 2 keynote speakers touching on the importance of Leadership and Vision in a changing business environment that is embracing the ideals of sustainability.
The following day saw an engaging welcome and introduction by the Honourable John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment, who set the tone for the jam-packed sessions and keynotes. The Minister noted "Humans are the only species that takes more than we give back". It would seem that it is our obligation to look toward a more sustainable way of not only doing business but living. It is no secret that when we, in Ontario, are challenged and confronted with a mistake, our reaction is to regulate. In doing so, we find that we can challenge ourselves to lead the world in actions and innovation. The Minister referenced that Ontario is now leading the world in clean water systems, along with Israel and Singapore.
In the 21st century, we are starting to realize the potential of "Sustainability Applied" as being the state where "environmental necessity meets economic opportunity."
The remaining sessions of the day were well organized and attendees had an opportunity to network and learn from many guests in different sectors about the "how-to" applications of sustainability in their businesses. As noted by Bob Willard, Speaker and Author of Resources for Sustainability Champions, creating business value with sustainability integration has really evolved over the last 3 years. Sustainability is no longer an afterthought once other business objectives were met, and companies that are leading the industry have realized that sustainability strategies built into their business objectives have taken their actions from the margin to the mainstream.
Companies and Keynotes that participated provided their perspectives on what it takes to drive sustainability inside of each of their organizations and where they began the journey toward integration of a sustainable culture. For some, the key motivating factor was driven by a need to avoid the threat of a public relations crisis or the impact of ever changing regulations. For others, it came from a more altruistic notion driven by passion and values; simply doing the right things because they are the right things to do.
Regardless of the drivers, the sessions allowed large, medium and small sized organizations along with key solution providers to explain their motivations and actions for moving toward sustainability and share with the attendees, their roadmaps for success, the challenges they faced and the help that is available to aid companies in realizing a sustainable culture.
So how do companies move from Vision to Reality? For most of the sessions, there seemed to be a theme in the process. Sustainability is driven from the top down and executed from the bottom up. The successful strategies saw common elements:
- Start with People - driving a change such as this will require a cultural shift that will be necessary to support your ongoing efforts. For PepsiCo, at an operational level inside their plant in Cambridge, their efforts started by forming a cross-functional team that in size was a good representation of the total population. Also, confront reality. Make sure you have the right people in the right jobs, making it easier to increase responsibility and beg to higher moral values.
- Look at existing Processes - reviewing existing processes inside your organization can reveal a number of opportunities to improve. Most keynotes and presenters referenced a number of different ways to leverage this; either with internal experts (from your sustainability team and internal resources) or with an outside solution provider. Leverage government and energy provider programs. Many, who spoke, noted that there was benefit in using a combined approach that leveraged internal resources with expertise from outside professionals. It is important to note that all made reference to the need for every organization embarking on this journey to have a well developed continual improvement program or PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) process in place.
- Technology and Innovation - once steps 1 & 2 are underway; looking at new technology and future innovation is a key factor in moving beyond the existing parameters and in some cases roadblocks of current equipment and operations. Look at alternative materials that impact overall products. By realizing value inside of steps 1 & 2, the return for future innovation has less impact. There is also a greater assurance that these efforts will be supported given the cultural and process changes already employed.
- Talk about Successes - continue to inspire and motivate internally and build the momentum to continue to feed the cultural shift. "It is important to celebrate and realize your successes." Additionally, talk about it outside of your organization. Use local media to inspire others and build momentum. We all want to emulate companies that are successful so share the good news.
Being profitable through a purposeful vision can be the key to what motivates companies to move to sustainability. Perhaps Mahatma Ghandi said it best…."you must be the change you wish to see in the world."