It is about Time

25 07 2010

When planning within a business context the time scales we use are often short, as short as 5 to 10 years.  While this may be longer than political time scales of only 3 to 5 years, it is very short in terms of the lifespan of successful and enduring businesses.  How often do you see businesses planning with time scales of multiple decades or centuries when they are the considering impact of their products and services?

In terms of sustainability, imagine the view businesses would take into their planning, if they were to consider time scales which included that of:

  • Their own ancestors, their present family and their future generations?
  • The founding organisations in their sector, their current suppliers and customers, along with those future organisations which will be created through the progress that they make today?
At a very fundamental level we all know that the current way of business needs to change however mainly through the fear of the unknown, that change is not happening fast enough.  Let us consider taking that step now rather than waiting as the fear will only grow the larger if we wait.
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake
because my great, great grandchildren won’t let me sleep
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the earth was unraveling?
Surely, you did something when the seasons started failing?
As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?

The first few lines of a poem called Hieroglyphic Stairway by Drew Dillinger http://drewdellinger.org/
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Knowing and Acting

11 07 2010

What if you knew the code to enable you to predict the future? Some think this would be marvellous, while others think it would make life a little boring.

You will have seen movies that show how people predict what is going to happen in the future. Many discussions continue on what Nostradamus was able to predict. Irrespective of what you believe in this area we are able to predict many events with great certainly over short periods.

Take for example heavy rain happening in the mountains. The people downstream know that they have certain period of time to react before the water levels at their part of the river will rise. They have been able to measure the rainfall in the hills and compare that with the rise in the water level at different places along the river and the time at which the water was highest. They know that if the rainfall in the hills reaches a certain amount then the downstream river banks will be breached. So they take action and sandbag the riverbanks or leave the low level areas.

You may be asking, why are you telling me such basic knowledge? Well this scenario can also be used to highlight what may be the very slow reaction that people have to climate change. Scientists know that the way we are treating the environment today will have flow on effects. The have measured many different components of our natural environment and have been able to correlate changes within their measurements with such certainty that they believe that they can predict what the future impacts will be.

While most of the effects of climate change will take a lot longer than the time it takes rain from the mountains to raise the level of rivers downstream, this slower rate of change is certainly not a reason not to act with as much haste. While the water levels in the river may rise and fall quickly, the impact of factors that are creating climate change will be with us for a considerably longer time.

We certainly are living in a time of knowing how our actions as humans collectively are affecting our future sustainability, so why do we not act with the required urgency?





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”.





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 http://www.naturalstep.org

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.