Many years ago quality guru Philip Crosby created a movement that shared the title of a book he wrote in 1980 — that quality is free. Is the same true for sustainability? An article in Chief Executive Officer (http://www.the-chiefexecutive.com/projects/sustainable-benefits/) prompted me to consider this again when it shared that MIT Sloan Professor Rick Locke said, “Sustainability is not a nice additional thing to do on top of your core business, but absolutely central to what a business does.”
When I talk about sustainability, I am not speaking of green practices, but a balanced scorecard approach of success that creates an enduring organization. Elkington, Emerson, and Beloe (2006) call sustainability the triple bottom line — financial, environmental, and societal. This is also being phrased as the 3 Ps: profit, planet, and people. Smart companies are being good stewards of all three areas:
- pursuing profits because that creates a strong organization that can be responsible to the planet and people.
- interacting with the environment in a way that creates a sustainable (long-term) business model — often this can reduce costs and create sources for new profits.
- treating people and communities with respect because these are current and future employees and customers.
We are seeing examples of sustainable transformations that have the potential to be recognized as quality has been — to be free. Consider a dairy that is paying large sums to dispose of a cottage cheese by-product that could be refined into whey protein. Instead of an expense, a new business line can be constructed that turns a waste item into a profit center. Opportunities like this are much more common than we may think — providing a lens to view sustainability as not only free but even profitable. These are not necessarily new-to-the-world innovations, but sustainable innovations.
Reference: Elkington, J., Emerson, J., & Beloe, S. (2006). The Value Palette: A Tool for Full Spectrum Strategy. California Management Review, 48(2), 6-28.