Forget what Kermit the Frog told you–it is actually pretty easy to be green. As more people see the light and recognize that sustainability should be at the forefront of our concerns moving forward, we can come together to have a tangible impact on our planet. We’ve only got one Earth to live on, and more and more businesses are beginning to recognize that, making the switch to more sustainable business practices.
However, not all sustainability is created equally. Adding a recycle bin at the end of the hallway is a step in the right direction towards sustainability. As the old saying goes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step– but that saying leaves out the fact that there are many, many more steps after just the first one. This is where the Future Laboratory’s three tiers of business sustainability come in.
Slightly reminiscent of the popular psychology undergrad study topic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the three tiers of sustainability function in a pyramid with the most basic of basic sustainability practices being on the bottom while the hard science of green business is on top.
Tier One: The Basics of Sustainability
The Basics are the day-to-day, small-scale changes that you and your business can make to help the environment without a huge investment on anyone’s end. Similar to the recycling bin example above, the basics in tier one include actions like recycling paper, switching to electronic documents, turning off company computers overnight and the like.
Tier one also covers the non-office related practices like carpooling to work or using public transportation. Given that these are the basics, they won’t have an unbelievably high impact on your overall carbon footprint, they’re easy to implement and a good jumping off point.
Tier Two: Thinking Sustainably
Elevating from tossing your Coke can in the recycle bin to actually using your brain to think critically about sustainable practices brings us to tier two. Of critical importance in tier two is–you guessed it–the supply chain.
Changes to the supply chain will only come about when an organization comes to terms with the fact that the sustainability movement isn’t just a trend, it’s here to stay. Businesses in this tier are the ones who want to effect positive change on the environment. They have to assess what impact they are already having on the environment under current conditions and use their collective wisdom to come up with a plan of action to impart change.
Tier Three: The Science of Sustainability
It’s time to dive into sustainability in the most effective and results-driven method that we can–by studying and analyzing it. We’re entrenched in an era of big data and the decisions that are guided by the information we derive from it. Reaching the third tier entails a full audit of the organization and mapping out not only short-term changes, but long term ones that can guide the future of the organization as a whole.
A good example of running a full-scale audit is realization that Coca-Cola made years ago that cutting back water consumption didn’t only involve changes at the bottling plants, it involved making modifications to the process of growing the sugarcane used in the soda.
Trending towards sustainability isn’t just doing what’s in the news right now–it’s about making a long term difference on the planet. Every business should strive to reach the third tier, making adjustments to the business, balancing cost vs outcome and making changes that benefit the greater good.