[suh-stey-nuh–bil-i-tee] noun 1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld or confirmed. 2. Environmental Science. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.
The meaning is simple; we have all attended meetings and seminars to the point that even reading the word makes our eyes start to glaze over!
What does it really mean for a corporation to embrace sustainability? It’s not enough to have recycle bins and use recycled office products, that is only a drop in the preverbal polluted ocean when it comes to corporate sustainability.
Corporate Sustainability starts with “Who are we as a company?” “What is the expectation of our end user?” Successful companies who survive over many decades understand that they are a human community first, and a money making machine second. Yes, an Ops guy just said that! Well, actually I quoted Steven Prokesch of the Harvard Business Review, but think about how many times you’ve been told that your employees are your most valuable asset. We worry about their training, their retention, their salaries, their integrity; we even have programs that worry about their health. But are we, as a corporate entity, setting the best example to follow when it comes to teaching sustainability to our employees?
I hear what you’re saying, “It is every person’s part as an individual to take care of the environment; we can’t tell our employees what to do away from the office!” That is true, we can’t; but we can set good examples by providing a work environment that teaches “best practices”. What employees get used to doing at work will spill over into their home life. Programs that encourage them to turn in hard to recycle products or corporate volunteering to clean-up or beautify the community foster employee involvement.
All this said…the real key to corporate sustainability is in the Supply Chain. What is coming in and going out of our facility, and how it’s being transported, can be as much as 80-90 percent of a company’s overall “carbon footprint.” Despite all that we do in our offices and manufacturing plants, if we don’t focus on our Supply Chain’s carbon footprint, we are missing the biggest opportunity for change.
At Farmer Brothers, we are in the process of building the first LEED (Lead in Energy & Environmental Design) Certified Headquarters in the industry. In our offices, we will be harvesting daylight, implementing new waste management plans, going paperless, utilizing solar energy and water efficiency plans. We have made significant changes in our transportation and distribution process that involve route optimization, maximizing cube & weight and converting to more efficient, and cost effective modes of transportation such as rail. Making these changes to be better with our sustainable efforts was the goal; however, we have saved a considerable amount on the bottom line as well.
I am offering a challenge to other corporations. Look at your supply chains and see where it is easy to cut back with fuel efficiency, packaging, electrical use, better vehicle maintenance, and replacement of old and out dated equipment that is not as energy efficient replacing it with newer energy efficient equipment. Changing out old lighting and replacing it with LED lighting in a warehouse can often pay for itself in energy savings in just a couple of years. Keep an eye out for Government rebates as well.
Be a trend setter in your industry and with your employees, we will all thrive in the same big world.
To view this blog as a slideshow presentation, click here.