If society is to achieve sustainability (ecological, social and economic)
then there will need to be a proliferation of
sustainability-promoting firms. To date, most firms,
when they become active on the environment, aim to reduce their own negative
impacts. But even if every firm adopted this approach, society would
not be able to achieve sustainability - because the firms' actions would
be focused solely on existing production processes and existing
products thereby locking in an inadequate (even though improved) status quo.
Sustainability-promoting firms, on the other hand, aim to help society
to become sustainable. This change of focus moves sustainability-promoting
firms into a new management paradigm.
At a minimum, sustainability-promoting firms will need
to take the following five key actions. They will need to:
The 5 key actions
1. Be committed to the goal of effectively helping society to be sustainable
2. Use their full product range as a major driver of society's move to
3. Take action to help society (locally and globally) to reach a condition
of 'sustainability take-off'
4. Urge governments to be proactive in shaping the economy to promote the
achievement of sustainability
5. Make sure their actions match the scale and pace of change needed if society
is to achieve sustainability (ie. promote large scale, urgent action)
There are six additional actions that sustainability-promoting firms should
take if they want to magnify their effectiveness. The firms should:
If sustainability-promoting firms proliferate, then the chance of achieving
sustainability will switch from "vanishingly small" to "virtually certain".
ensure that when products (including services) and production processes are
developed or modified to meet the needs of the active users that they are
also designed to serve the needs of the local community, people globally,
future generations and nature.
implement an environmental management system that enables the organisation
to help society achieve sustainability in a timely fashion, for example,
through the use of leapfrog, pioneering strategies.
take action to maximise the market for products that contribute to sustainability
and as far as possible favour the servicing of other firms and final users
that are making a positive contribution to the achievement of sustainability.
change the way activities are carried out or the way production is undertaken
- to foster sustainability.
promote the spread of the sustainability-promoting approach generally: through
the private, public and community sectors and up and down the supply chain.
cooperate with other sustainability-promoting organisations.
Author: Philip Sutton
First posted: August 1998
Content updated: 12 December 1999
Format updated: 26 August 1999
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