Sustainability – Are You Serious?

It’s time to get serious about sustainability.

If you think that sustainability is still a “nice to do” not a “must do” for organisations, it’s time to get your head out of the sand. If you want some inspiration to galvanise action in this space, just watch this Ted talk below.

What struck me about this inspiring talk by Steve Howard, the Chief Sustainability Officer for Ikea, is that if you think cleverly and laterally, you don’t have to choose between sustainability and profitability.  Or sustainability and quality.  Or sustainability and affordability. Or sustainability and reputation.

He says, “It’s about what we do right here, right now, and for the rest of our working lives.”

In his talk, he outlines some wonderfully practical and common sense ideas that IKEA have developed to help ensure the business has a positive impact on the world.

One example that I was impressed by is the Zero Waste goal which the company and employees at every level have embraced. They are aiming to “go all in one hundred percent” with their zero waste policy.  He says, “one hundred percent targets are not hard, it’s easier to do than fifty percent and ninety percent. When it’s one hundred percent it’s kinda clear and business people like clarity because then you just get the job done!”

This concept is one which all companies need to consider – and some are already leading by example.

On local soil, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare is aiming to become the first zero waste company in New Zealand.

The East Tamaki organisation has more than 40 hectares of land, three building sites and more than 1850 staff but is showing other companies how waste management systems can save and, in some cases, make money. (NZ Herald, November 8, 2013)

We all know the significance of sustainability and most of us are diligent about doing our part at home. So why not carry that philosophy through to our workplaces?

As leaders it is our responsibility to bring sustainability to the forefront. If organisations as large as Ikea and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare can do it, surely we can too.

As Steve Howard says, “I don’t think we’ve fully realised the extent to which sustainability is going to shape society and the business landscape over the next couple of decades.”

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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