The Organizational Strategist

May 14, 2010

Sustaining the Spirit of Sustainability

Filed under: Organizational Development, Sustainability — Whit @ 10:36 pm


Sustainability, in its many forms and definitions, has gradually become a more important and pressing topic for organization managers, change agents, and thought leaders. At this time, there are few organizations that have made sustainability pervasive throughout their organization and many do not make sustainability a truly strategic initiative. There are courageous individuals who strive to influence, set or otherwise work to make organizations sustainable via internal or external actions. Unfortunately, many sustainability initiatives that you may hear about are nothing more than green washing to make an effort or organization appear to be environmentally friendly, which would then potentially influence consumer opinion. The more profound and impactful sustainability goes well beyond simply greening an organization a bit, as green washing does, to make it so that decision making, daily work, and future planning incorporate the triple bottom line into the organization’s thinking.

-Sustaining Yourself and the Potential of Sustainability-

There are many reasons for sustainability becoming more important. The value in pursuing a triple bottom line (People, Planet, and Profit) is immense. If an organization does adopt such a strategic and holistically encompassing undertaking, it would take a lot of time, effort, and continued dedication. Achieving a sustainable organization would be a long and enduring competitive advantage in many forms. Beyond that, I bet that it would feel immensely good to work with or for such an organization.

Fortunately for those who aspire to be the harbingers of sustainability, the need for sustainable organizations will only grow in time. With resources decreasing due to increasing world population, among other factors, and our world being more interconnected via global interactions, the advantage of sustainability will become ever more appealing and rewarding for an organization to pursue. I have hope that sustainability roles, contracts and other opportunities will become more abundant in the future.

Until such a time when organizations all adopt and aspire to obtain a holistic triple bottom line, there are steps that can be taken. There is much power in leading by example, modeling the change, and embracing the options that sustainability presents. By making gradual, persistent, and effective changes to oneself and one’s organization, the path toward sustainability can be set. Along the way, be sure that you and your own pursuits are not diminished or burnt out. Personally, I have, at times, become burnt out on trying to do the right thing and act on behalf of sustainable notions. It is tough being a leader. Leadership takes a lot of dedicated effort and not having a means of renewal and helpful avenue to channel difficulties could have lasting negative consequences. Be sure to take time for yourself. Renew the energy that you have. Take proactive measures if and when you can, but be smart about how you go about doing it. Be fair to yourself. Sustainability starts with the idealists, innovative champions and agents of change. It should spread naturally, not through force of will, or by leaning upon selected initiatives or people to carry the whole.

Some take-aways include the following:

–          Do not force sustainability upon your organization. It should be a natural growth that gradually gets more cultivated and spread throughout an organization.

–          Continually build, refine, and construct relationships, projects, and infrastructure to support everyone. Going too hard and too fast can cause problems. A distance runner sets a good pace and sticks to it. By sprinting too much, the stamina and ability to continue dwindles.

–          Stay strong and stay true over time. Achieving a sustainable organization, lifestyle, program or other initiative cannot happen overnight. Such initiatives need a longer term focus and thinking. The importance and relevance of sustainability initiatives will only grow as time goes on anyway so building inertia and success now can enable much later on.


The investiture of the triple bottom line into an organization is a holistic undertaking. In its own way, this is a very encompassing strategic aim because it would need to pull on the resources and capabilities to win and continue to win in market spaces. There are some organizations that have undertaken the triple bottom line, which should be applauded. On the other hand, there are far, far more that have not even begun to think along those lines. In order for those organizations that are new to sustainability to change their course, there needs to be influential, informed, and inspirational people employed that want to build sustainability into their organization. It may take time to find the right opportunity to create sustainability, but it is worth the diligence and effort for all those involved.


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