What do executives have in common with school kids? They both can be pretty picky says Laura Vanderkam, as outlined in the Fast Company article 6 Quick Lessons from the School Lunch Line for Pleasing Picky Customers. According to Jennifer Woofter, these helpful tips can also be applied to sustainability efforts when trying to convince executives to green-light a project. My team has taken the article’s six lessons which are listed below and added our own commentary.
When I was a director of a financial institution in the 1990s, we struggled in vain to get top executives to pay attention to the Board’s sustainability priorities. To no avail. Then we stumbled upon the idea of rewarding the CEO for long-term sustainability performance. The result? We saw a dramatic improvement in the company’s sustainability performance from then on (financial performance, too!). Once we realized the impact of this simple measure, the board quickly embedded the principle in its compensation philosophy, which, in turn, spread the concept throughout the management ranks.
This series of posts, entitled Sustainability-driven Collaboration builds on lessons learned over years of sustainability-driven transformational change efforts at the organization level and explores the value they can bring to multi-stakeholder collaboration.
In their March 2013 post to the Harvard Business Review Blog, Paul Ellingstad and Charmian Love pointedly asked the question,Is Collaboration the new Greenwashing? This attention-grabbing title resonates strongly because of the ubiquitous use of the term collaboration in the past few years, particularly with the rise of concepts such as “Shared Value” in the business community and “Collective Impact” in the not-for-profit world. Those of us who have worked in the sustainability and social change space for some time are well aware of how easily means can be confused for ends, how often talk has been confused for action, and the difficulty of achieving transformational rather than incremental improvements.
“It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble now because we don’t have a good story” – Thomas Berry
The greatest risk to the sustainability movement is that it is struggling and so far failing to articulate a vision of a future that is both prosperous while remaining within planetary boundaries.
Until it is able to showcase a plausible paradigm shift, then no-one is going to feel safe letting go of the current system that is driving us towards the edge of an environmental and social abyss.
When John Elkington coined the term “the Triple Bottom Line [TBL],” many hoped it would provide the lodestar for steering capitalism into a more just, sustainable future. Twenty years have passed since and that future seems as far away today as it did then—while the time to make that transition before Total Systems Collapse grows ever short.
It’s not that there hasn’t been progress toward this goal.