Sustainability Skeptics + Enthusiasts = ‘Lean and Green’ Savings

Pamela Gordon Posted by Pamela Gordon, CEO, Technology Forecasters Inc..

Pamela J. Gordon is CEO of Technology Forecasters Inc., keynoter on profitable sustainability, and co-developer of ProductDesign21.


Sustainability Skeptics + Enthusiasts = ‘Lean and Green’ Savings

By Pamela J. Gordon

In a recent study, the UN Global Impact, 93% of the 1,000 CEOs in 27 industries surveyed see sustainability as important to the future success of their business. Yet, only 33% report that business is making sufficient efforts to address global sustainability challenges. It’s no wonder that more companies are developing sustainability and design-for-environment roadmaps.

However, chances are that your organization comprises employees who ardently reduce their environmental footprints (drive less, eat less meat, plant organic gardens, etc.) and those who enjoy making fun of those who ardently reduce their environmental footprints. So, when your organization is looking to save money from reducing wasteful materials and processes (“Lean”) and to conserve natural resources (“Green”), how can you motivate both types of employees to create and execute on a profitable sustainability roadmap in a competitive timeline?

Connect Passion to Profit
By connecting Lean and Green programs to employees’ passions (whether for trees or business competitiveness) and training them in profitable sustainability, you can bring nearly all employees together for a common cause: benefit for the organization and the environment.

For example, turn skeptics into effective “profitable sustainability” advocates by showing the power of the employees’ “sustainability lens” for identifying and eradicating waste during Lean Six Sigma projects. Connect the dots between “design for environment” and greater efficiency and reliability. Report on specific direct competitors’ sustainability advances (perhaps impressive carbon-reduction results, positive press about the CEO’s sustainability leadership, products and services that are 5 times more efficient than others) and drum up competitive excitement.

To leverage sustainability enthusiasts for profitable programs, coach them in forecasting cost savings and new revenues associated with the best sustainability ideas, substantiating each assumption rationally. Model how to enumerate risks of failing to carry out specific sustainability programs, such as being out of compliance (fines, market blockages, even prison for failing to comply with some laws) and being left behind by more aggressively-sustainable direct competitors. Brainstorm on how to excite people about innovation: creating processes and products/services that will provide true competitive advantages — by reducing costs and therefore prices, or by creating efficient products that attract customers wanting to reduce costs.

Measure Everything
Numbers can be a fabulous focus for organizations — an effective equalizer to involve people who like preserving nature and people who want to drive fiscal responsibility.

So, get both camps to come together to develop a high-ROI 5- or 10-year sustainability roadmap, comprising quarterly and annual financial forecasts (monetary savings and new earnings) and environmental-conservation goals (CO2 emissions, gallons/liters of water, distances traveled, trees, etc.).

And product launch teams should be trained in design-for-environment techniques and provided a Life Cycle Assessment tool to measure seconds for disassembly, monetary value at the product’s end of life, embedded and use-phase CO2, supply-chain distances, product weight and size, number of fasteners, and more. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

Remove Politics
Would you like to avoid time-wasting, unproductive discussion about politics when employees should be furthering their assigned objectives? If so, keep politics, politicians, religion, and debates about global warming out of meetings, presentations, and executive statements. Instead, focus communications on themes that most everyone can agree: to reduce waste of materials, processes, equipment, paper, water, transportation, and electricity throughout the organization and its products/services, so that the company is more profitable, products more competitive, regulations followed, and the environment more able to sustain life.

Or, far more briefly, let’s surpass our competitors in reducing costs and achieving higher sustainability goals.

More about Aligning Skeptics and Enthusiasts for Profitable Sustainability
Training Magazine will publish a full “how to” article (as a follow up to my recent article there). I’ll share the article’s link in a future post.

In the meantime, post a comment below about how you have brought sustainability skeptics and enthusiasts together for better products, reduced costs, quicker time to market, and new revenues. Or share a painful story in which progress was stymied owing to team conflict.