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Developing an "Able" Sustainability Program

by William Newman

December 3, 2010

The triple bottom line of sustainability — economic, environmental, and social — has taken center stage in the efforts to develop new policies and programs that address how organizations allocate their spend based on renewable and green strategies. Traditional spend management focuses on driving cost efficiencies in procurement areas and reining in uncontrolled spend throughout the organization. With a slow economic recovery in the works, commercial and public sector organizations are reviewing policies and practices to address sustainable procurement and other functions — particularly in environmental and social areas — and realize new economic gain.Based on the market orientation of the organization, sustainability initiatives may occur through a number of different points of view (or lenses). These lenses are based on the operational nature of the organization and the frameworks and methods their industries tend to follow for sustainability programs. In general, there are five lenses: 

  1. Manufacturing of hard products (assembly focused)
  2. Manufacturing of soft products or agriculture (e.g., apparel, food and beverage, and textiles)
  3. Associations and institutions (including higher education)
  4. Not-for-profit and charity groups (NFPCs)
  5. Public sector (local and state governments and agencies)

In our position paper, we discuss the need for sustainability programs to focus on three key abilities or aspects. The first is feasibility, or to understand what is possible within the organization.  The second is viability, or what is possible given the fiscal and resource constraints of the organization.  The third is materiality, or what is important to the organization based on its position in its market to achieve its strategic objectives in a sustainable manner.

Corporate and community outreach play a large role in the realization of sustainable breakthrough strategies.  Without engaging the commerical or community value chain an organization will fail to achieve its objectives and operate in a vacuum.  This position paper describes an engagement process to use with value chains to onboard these stakeholders to making sustainable goals a reality.

To read the full paper, please visit our sustainability page here.

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