Socks for Dogs or Sustainability

Featured

Can we put aside our fascination with Socks to become more sustainable in business?

The call and offer were a regular one – a content marketing company had just analysed my website and found it below par.  They could guarantee to deliver millions of leads and 1st place globally in SEO content – watch out the Cambridge Inst. for Sustainability Leadership!.  The marketing hook this time was a series of free searches to identify keywords.  As wet dark autumn afternoons working from home in the UK can be slow affairs, I decided to take up the offer.

The caller then started feeding back the monthly activity level in the UK arising from a specific keywords that I was interested in.  I was surprised by the overall interest levels from keywords associated with ‘Business and Sustainability’ so on my last keyword search I decided to set a baseline comparison keyword to compare previous results against.  An earlier online distraction looking for stocking fillers for the family may have influenced my choice.

Keyword Search comparison – results are average monthly inquiries made to Google  

Sustainability in business 101-200 Socks 11,500-30,300
Why is sustainability important in business 0-10 Socks and sandals 851-1,700
How to improve business sustainability 0-10 Bamboo socks 11,500-30,300
Role of sustainability in business 0-10 Socks for dogs 501-850
Business sustainability plan 0-10 Christmas socks 1,700–2,900
Benefits of sustainability 11-50 Vegan thermal socks 11-50
       

We’ve all have moments in our life when it seems that the world’s priorities don’t line up with our own.  In this case is was comparing the greater interest in ‘socks for dogs’ and surprisingly ‘socks and sandals’ (the latter a candidate for the return of capital punishment for social crimes) than the level of UK internet interest in how sustainability benefits organisations and business activities despite the strong evidence emerging globally.    

There is a visible upturn in business community interest into environmental stewardship affairs and the consequences of poor environmental management practices in areas such as single use plastics, energy management and recycling.   However in order to extract the greatest value from organisational initiatives, there has to be senior management commitment to greater business sustainability and a clear understanding of their role in leading the business towards greater sustainability as well as in promoting strategic change when sustainability opportunities, issues and risks arise. 

To achieve this, the surest route is through the exploration, and adoption of strategic sustainability business models within the business owners, leaders professionals.  Executive level decision-makers still lags far behind that of the wider environmental manager community in their understanding of future intangible risks associated with sustainability.

Professional development training and coaching can help break down these knowledge barriers, and allow an opportunity for more detailed examination of what opportunities exist and how the integration of a sustainability business model or strategic plan could fit your ‘future fit’ organisational culture.  The other great benefit is that it can allow time and an opportunity for senior managers to understand, reflect on and retain a stronger position when reviewing new initiatives arising within the marketplace – or within the minds of more junior colleagues who now hold an alternative worldview on business’s interaction with society.

Key message: Consider your future sustainability and leadership developmental needs in a key area of future business practice, and can Leading Green help you achieve this?.

On the socks front – am I a bad parent for even considering socks as a present, and is it wrong to feel that I have now at last discovered a Christmas gift for my eco-conscious, vegan and feminist elder daughter – and the dog!

Getting Green Done ……

Status

I was amazed as a young environmental colleague lamented the lack of success, she had had recently in presenting her CEO with a new sustainability initiative.

‘He threw out most of my proposal and gave me only 30% of what I wanted!’

The initiative was wrecked, she was down-heartened, she had embarrassed herself, and her enthusiasm was now at a low ebb through disappointment.  It had been a bold initiative, it had matched her vision for what the company could achieve, had aligned with their new sustainability policy and could have delivered real business value.  The whole initiative reflected well on her and the career training she had received to date. 

‘Wow! I was thinking, 30% – that’s just great as a first step I mused, but in her disappointment, I sensed the frustration that many graduates today in the sustainability field feel when entering the workplace.  They leave their institutes with high expectations and run full tilt into the operational realities and encounters that are so common in organisational bearpits.  What was once so clear and rational in the classroom becomes murky and complex when it must be delivered through workplace colleagues.  Organisations just don’t act as rationally as sympathetic classmates with shared worldviews on sustainable development. ‘We must do this’ becomes quickly challenged by ‘Why must we do this?’, ‘But….’, ‘Perhaps when we have the time and money!’ or even a stonewalling ‘No!’. 

It took time to explain to her that I was impressed and pleased for her, that 30% success is not failure but success when you are trail blazing!  For after two decades in corporate environmental risk management and sustainability you learn that any advance or step forward is a good win. 

In sustainability, we are first and foremost business change managers, our role is to ratchet up organisational performance, to deliver value outcomes and to continually progress ‘getting green done’ within organisations.  There are very few ‘Look at Me!’ and ‘Aren’t I Great!’ moments for many environmental professionals within organisations. 

Personally, my greatest inner satisfaction comes from watching others adopt sustainability thinking into their work because it now makes strategic sense to them, aligns with new business direction or reinforces a strong organisational culture with a new worldview.  That is my reward. We all like success and the recognition of high performance by our peers, but when your leadership is enacted via changes in the behaviours of others don’t be surprised if it is overlooked.  Remember that people rarely own up to changing thier past opinions. 

It was clear that her CEO had been supportive and had giving her a chance to progress her initiative but had yet to be totally convinced enough to give her the whole package.  She had first to deliver on this element before any further funding or support was granted – a clear pragmatic leadership decision.

We all need mentors in our professional lives, colleagues who can guide us through the organisational minefield, suggest alternative ways forward and pick us up when we are downhearted or discouraged.  It took time to show my colleague that her disappointment in the meetings outcome was unjustified and had in fact been a win.  She had set her heart on 100% success, her CEO in supporting her had granted 30%.

So now we have started work on ensuring that she does successfully deliver on the 30% she has been entrusted with.  In doing so, we are working out what her strategy will be and how she will bering on other colleagues to gain the next 30%, and the 30% after that, and the 30% after that ……until she wins over the CEO and gets his full backing for her vision. 

So, don’t expect 100% success overnight, building a sustainability foundation within an organisational culture involves a slow but continuous ratcheting up of performance over time.  It is a marathon, not a sprint and that ultimately success is in…just Getting Green Done!

klein-tools-box-wrenches-68222-64_1000

Note: I have happily borrowed the phrase ‘Getting Green Done’ from the book of the same name by Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. It is a useful read for sustainability professionals enetering any work sector.