Changing Perspective

18 07 2010

Taking time to look at a topic or issue from a different angle can often be a rewarding experience.  You may be challenged to begin with, though as you discuss the topic from say the perspective of your supplier or a particular type of customer, new or clearer perspectives will emerge.  You can think of this as role playing.  Have some fun with it and consider doing it as a group exercise with your colleagues.  What is really powerful is when you actually do the exercise with your suppliers and customers.

Now that you have considered the current situation or time period why not change the time to what it was like for that supplier or customer 2 years ago, 5 years ago or even 10 years ago.  What is the progress you have made since then on improving your service, meeting their expectations and what have they changed to meet your requirements?  Have there been changes in the information you need from them in terms of say working conditions?  What about changes to the materials and processes they use?

Reflecting back on the progress you both have made will provide a renewed sense of progress.  Now take your perspective into the future 2, 5 and 10 years.  What changes do you seeing that will become the normal ways of businesses operating?  How has the way you design your products and services taken into account the use of resources, the sustainability cycles and social impacts?  Are you preparing for those?  There are some great processes available to help facilitate this forecasting (some of these are mentioned in previous posts including how backcasting may be a better methodolgy than forecasting).

Enjoy the new awareness you gain from changing your perspective!

A Greener Upstream

22 06 2010

Have you thought about how much influence you can have on greening your upstream supply chain?

If not, there is huge potential.
If you have thought about it and put it into action then share your stories with others of what you did and how it went.

To help you think about the potential lets stop for a moment and have a coffee together at your favourite cafe.

Now to get that coffee into your hand there are multiple choices that have been made such as:

  • who did they purchase the beans, milk, sugar and chocolate/cinnamon from?
  • are any of those products fair-trade or organic?
  • what was the packaging made from (paper, plastic or metal)?
  • is the packaging single use or multi use?  Can it be recycled at the end of its use?
  • how far did the products travel to get to the cafe?
  • what was the method of delivery and was that the option with the lowest carbon footprint (e.g. do we need to airfreight the sugar)?
  • when upgrading the coffee machine have they looked at the power consumption of the equipment?
  • was their training provided on how best to use the machine?
  • what type of cup is it being served in?
  • is the cleaning detergent eco-friendly?

Now that is just a starting point so while you enjoy that coffee lets just reflect on the fact that every product or service supplied into that coffee shop can be looked at from the perspective of can I make a greener choice.

It is simply asking the question – “Is there a greener choice”?

If you do not already have a standard clause in your supplier contracts asking for the more environmentally friendly option why not create one now.  It only takes a simple clause to ask the question which keeps both you and your suppliers thinking about what the next step is to having an even greener supply chain.

Using resources

8 06 2010

Daily we get messages reminding us that we are using the resources provided to us on earth in really inefficient ways and sometimes just plain wasting them.  Of course every resource that you use in your business is a cost to your business as either a financial one or an environmental one.  You will understand the financial one pretty well though have you thought of the environmental ones both for your health and that of your colleagues?

The benefits of having a healthy team working with you are clear.  Though we can not see the slow changes that are causing our team to not be working at their full potential due to the increasing levels of pollution building up in their bodies and their surroundings.  It is like having an engine slowly clog up because it is unable to self-clean.  Running an engine that is not at its full potential just costs more resources to get the same level of output.

There are many superb resources on the web that provide insights into the way we are not using resources well.  The Story of Stuff ( is one that is great for Adults and Children and it lasts only 20 minutes (great for a coffee room viewing at work).

It combines video clips of Annie Leonard and cartoon characters to explain financial costs that are not being passed along the supply chain to the end product being sold.  Costs associated with poor worker health or the destruction of forests and rivers is not paid by the customer buying the product rather through the community in higher health care costs and not being able to use their local water resources or the oxygen from the forests.

I am sure that if you were to stop for just 5 minutes after watching a video like “The Story of Stuff” you would recall areas within your business operation that are using resources poorly.  How much do you think you could save after investing just 5 minutes of your chargeable time on recalling those ideas?  I would guess easily 10 times or more the cost of the investment.  I look forward to hearing what action you took and what the savings were to your organisation.

Navigating the Passage

30 05 2010

For any organisation, keeping up with legislative requirements can be quite a challenge.  As we all know, getting offside with the taxation department in any country only leads to investigations and subsequently leaves you less time to run your business.  Accordingly, getting offside with environmental protection departments’ can be just as challenging, as your whole operation can be shut down until the issue is rectified.  If you are in the manufacturing sector, this is a particular concern, as recovering from lost orders and bad publicity about disregarding the environment are tricky to recover from.

This article looks at ways to be proactive in setting your organisation’s course so that you minimise your chances of running up against legislation.  I call it “navigating the passage” as it is like sailing a yacht from one ocean to another ocean through a narrow channel.

We are all collectively guilty of operating businesses in a way where we are not taking into account limitations such as:

  • Using up resources like coal, oil and forests faster than they can be replaced (certainly not within many generations)
  • Gathering too quickly animals, fish and plants such that their populations are no longer self sustaining.
  • Reducing the areas of forests that provide our oxygen
  • Altering the natural mixture of nutrients in our soil
  • Increasing the levels of pollution in our water, food and air
  • Producing new substances that nature can not dispose of such as polystyrene and nuclear waste

These limitations may be viewed as frustrating limitations to continuing business as usual, or as an opportunity to work with them so as to be ahead of others in your industry.  In terms of the “navigating the passage” analogy, it means that you choose to take your business right up to the edges of the coastlines exploring the details and opportunities, rather than staying out in the middle of the ocean.

When you study the upstream and downstream reliance your organisation has on resources or the part it plays in the production of pollution, you enable yourself to look for alternative methods of production of the same product, while reducing or even eliminating that reliance.  Imagine if your organisation was able to operate without the need to burn coal for electricity.  What if you generated your own electricity from your own waste, so that rather than having to pay for disposing of that waste, you used it instead of buying electricity.  A cycle like this replicates how nature works in that one process output is the input to another process and therefore there is never any waste.

Discovering process changes that give you the opportunity to navigate your business through the narrow channels of environmental legislation, and developing a culture that looks for these opportunities, are vital to the long term success of your business and indeed any organisation.  While your competitors are out in the middle of the old ocean, you have seen the channels that have allowed your business to navigate the passageway along the coastline, and into what appears to be a whole new ocean of opportunities on the other side.

Of course, when sailing any yacht, a full crew dedicated to the journey is required, as there will be times when you may sail too close to the rocks.  The team’s contribution to the successful operation of your business will also mitigate your businesses environmental challenges before they have a chance to become an issue.  Your whole team therefore needs to be contributing, each in their unique way, to ensure your business’ successful “Navigation of the Passage”.

Global Environmental Crisis

24 05 2010

I got asked the other day the following question:

What is/are the root cause/s of the Global Environmental Crisis?
How can they be addressed?

Here are my thoughts.

The root causes of the global environmental crisis stem from the disconnect of people from acknowledging they are part of nature and environmental cycles rather than being separate from or able to control nature.

In the business world there is a growing discussion that measuring a business’s success in terms of profit and shareholder dividends alone is no longer good enough. When assessing the sustainability of the business and the risks it faces, investors can take into account more the impact the operation has on the local communities and the natural resources it is dependent on. Countries continue to use the measure of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to show the health of the country and how well it is progressing. GDP does not take into account what is being produced (money spent on recovering from natural disasters and building more military arsenal adds to GDP just as providing housing and producing food does) or what effect it has on nature (clear felling forests for the timber adds to GDP however no account is taken for the loss of biodiversity or ecosystem services that the forest provides, such as producing oxygen).

It is measures like GDP that have driven the growth in consumerism where more goods are being purchased and hence need to be produced,therefore raising the GDP of an economy. Marketing leads people to believe that more “things” will make them happy and show them to be successful in their communities, however this does not necessarily lead to a healthy and happy community. People need to appreciate those “things” from a perspective of what has been utilised to produce them.

We can address this disconnect by raising awareness of the interconnectedness and reliance we as the human species have on a healthy planet. Educating people in what is involved in producing food and goods so that they choose options that have a lower embedded energy, along with a lower social and environmental cost, will help reconnect people to their place in nature. This will lead to more meaningful measures of success being adopted such as Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) or Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW) rather than GDP, thus allowing a further break from the current connection between consuming more “things” as measures of success.

Looking at our planning and design requirements in all aspects of life is another way to address the crisis. By giving more consideration to the production processes of products to enable them to be reused and recycled can reduce our environmental impact. Moving back to producing products that have longer design life expectancy rather than adhering to a replacement system and finally, by designing products so that the output from one process becomes the input in another process while utilising nature to assist the cycles and hence reduce the energy required in the production process, are all solutions to addressing the global environmental crisis.

Overall we need to think more strategically around sustainability issues taking into account in our management of the 5 major types of capital being: human capital, financial capital, natural capital, produced and social capital.

In conclusion, the key to addressing the global environmental crisis is having a longer term perspective that revitalises the role humans play in generating sustainable growth that does not disproportionately disadvantage ecosystems or human cultures.

I would love to hear yours either here or on facebook via!/note.php?note_id=418673911003

Sustainable Strategies

17 04 2010

Have you heard of “The Natural Step Framework”?

We explain the framework as a way for organisations to better understand the impacts on their profitability of issues such as climate change, peak oil, water shortages, pollution and carbon footprint.

The formal answer is “It is a comprehensive model for planning in complex systems. It is openly published and free for all to use. The Natural Step Framework has helped hundreds of different organisations around the world integrate sustainable development into their strategic planning and create long lasting transformative change. It is constantly being used, tested, refined and developed.”  from The Natural Step website

If you would like to know more about how this framework can be applied in your organisation then contact us as we have been trained in the use of this framework.

A New Phase

14 03 2010

Welcome to the new website for Coordinate4u where there is more information on our services and products than ever before.

Our goal is to provide you with the tools and resources to take that next step towards sustainability. That step maybe looking at your own personal environment or it may be the environment that your organisation operates within.

Looking forward to sharing your journey with you and inspiring others to follow leaders like you.

Sustainability Consultants for youRegards
The Team at Coordinate4u