• Lars Christensen

A common Sense Approach to Sustainability by Tammy A.S. Kohl


I finished this book in September 2022. I recommend this book 9/10.

The book is excellent if you want an easy-to-read book that uncovers how sustainability can impact your company. For example, if sustainability currently isn't urgent to your company, but you ponder if it should be part of your future strategy.

The book is available here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • "As a CEO, my job is to get out in front of it because if you are not out in front of it you're going to get plowed under."~ Jeffrey Immelt, GE.

  • The question for senior leadership within any organization is: What does sustainability really mean to our business? Frequently, senior leadership teams lack not only a definition but also a full understanding of how to incorporate or apply the concepts of sustainability to their strategic plan, their operating process, their employees, their customers, and stakeholders.

  • Answering the following questions can help a senior leadership team create a clear focus and direction:

  • What definition of sustainability is best for your organization to adopt?

  • What desired results do your organization wants to accomplish, and in what time frame?

  • How will you measure those desired outcomes?

  • How will you communicate your sustainability plan and establish buy-in with your employees and stakeholders?

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your organization's definition of sustainability?

  • Was your adoption based on regulation, pressure from customers or stakeholders, or internally driven?

  • Who is or should be accountable for sustainability in your organization?

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • If your customers/stakeholders rated your organization on its sustainability initiatives, how would the organization fare?

  • Are you currently a 'have to' or an 'it is not necessary' organization?

  • In your organization, what are the top three desired results that could be positively impacted by implementing a strategy of sustainability?

  • What are your customers'/stakeholders' greatest concerns regarding sustainability?

  • How do those concerns relate to your products or services?

  • Our experience is leaders focus on the future, innovation, and where the organization is headed i.e., determining what the right things are for the organization to do. In contrast, management's role is to do the right things right and do them now. Both roles are necessary, and both roles are important. One without the other will produce great plans but no results. While the other will produce the frustration of being ready but having no place to go.

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is senior leadership committed to a strategy of sustainability?

  • How would your organization benefit if you were to adopt a strategy of sustainability?

  • What is stopping you from implementing a sustainability strategy?

  • If you implemented a strategy of sustainability, how would stakeholders' opinions change?

  • What are some quick wins you can implement?

  • Examples:

  • Reduce landfill waste by 5%

  • Reduce water usage by 50%

  • Reduce the time it takes to change over a machine by 20% to provide greater efficiencies and better customer response time.

  • Eliminate scrap in the manufacturing process by 80%

  • Answer the customer's phone calls within three rings to provide faster response time.

  • Implement a recycling program.

  • Conduct an energy audit.

  • Conduct an organizational assessment to determine the organization's readiness to implement a sustainability strategy.

  • HBR Balanced Scorecard Article

  • Adding your sustainability initiative into the balanced scorecard model:

  • Strategy: Become concerned stewards of the environment.

  • Objective: Eliminate all landfill waste.

  • Measurements: Amount of waste taken to the landfill.

  • Target: By the end of this fiscal year, we will no longer need to contract with our waste hauler to take any waste to the landfill.

  • Initiatives: Assemble a cross-functional team to identify the source of our landfill materials.

  • Work with our supply chain to reduce waste coming into our location.

  • Identify what materials can be reused or recycled and implement a program of reuse and recycling.

  • Your communication process should also address external communications to your customers, stakeholders, and the community. Your sustainability strategy should become an integral part of the organization's overall brand, supporting your public image, enhancing credibility, and building corporate responsibility while at the same time boosting demand for your products and services.

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • How are you communicating and engaging your employees in the sustainability initiative?

  • What sustainability measurements are key to your organization?

  • How do you recognize/reward employees who are engaged in the change process?

  • How do you currently use cross-functional teams to tap into the creativity and innovation of those who are closest to your customers and stakeholders?

  • Do you have a process for reporting your sustainability successes?

  • What processes have realigned in order to support your sustainability efforts?

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the long-term sustainability vision for the organization?

  • How is sustainability incorporated into the long-term strategy of the organization?

  • Are current projects aligned with the sustainability vision?

  • How engaged are your employees? How do you know?

  • Are your customers loyal to your product or service? How do you know?

  • How are you measuring your organization's commitment to sustainability?

  • How are you reporting and publicizing your sustainability outcomes?

  • " A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation. " ~ Andrew Grove, Intel

  • Once an organization achieves transformation, it is critical to create ongoing action steps in order to continuously improve. Some of those steps include:

  • Devote a senior position or, depending on the size of the organization, a part of someone's job description to focus on sustainability. This person should report directly to the CEO/President.

  • Commit to clear, attainable, and big, hairy, audacious goals related to future plans and the ongoing development of your employees.

  • Focus on processes specifically related to the continuous improvement of your employees. Consistently question the way processes will improve efficiency and align when with the organization's sustainability goals.

  • Monitor and continue to measure your impact on the environment. Create a long-range view and seek to lead your industry.

  • Work with your partners, vendors, and suppliers to create innovative solutions that benefit everyone as well as the community. Become a public advocate for sustainability practices.

  • Continue to monitor measures that relate to sustainability both short and long-term.

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • What level of sustainability has your organization obtained? How do you know?

  • What are your next steps?

  • What would it mean for your organization if you were to transform the culture to embed sustainability?

  • Do your customers view your organization as a sustainable one? How do you know?

  • The banking industry provides a great example of hidden opportunities—opportunities they could capitalize on sooner as opposed to later. Online banking allows you to access your bank account from the internet. Some banks even let you deposit your checks by taking pictures of them with your cell phone. Looking at it through the lens of the customer, online banking offers convenience and banking anytime and anywhere. Now take a look at online banking through the lens of sustainability. Because you do not need to drive to the bank and deposit your checks, ask questions about your account, or transfer money, the bank is helping you to reduce your carbon footprint as well as make your life more productive. Online banking makes banking more efficient because it reduces the need for fuel; it eliminates waste like emissions and also reduces the effort it takes to the bank.

  • Questions to ask yourself:

  • How can a strategy of sustainability differentiate you from the competition?

  • Where are your hidden sustainability opportunities, and how can you capitalize on them today?

  • What process is your organization currently using for giving and receiving sustainability feedback?

  • How can sustainability impact your organization's reputation, customer value, employee retention, and community relations?

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