Sep 10, 2008
The last few years has seen a huge growth in the sustainability agenda. Conferences and summits compete for delegates and policy documents are being published at almost exponential rate. Even now people say to me that while efficiency is important, we must not lose sight of the sustainability agenda which is even more important. My immediate riposte is to ask for the intended definition of sustainability. At this point, I am usually bombarded with topics ranging from global warming and saving the planet through to using SMEs/BMEs and equalities provision.
All these issues no doubt have their merits and place in the policy world and are usually presented by people with evangelical enthusiasm. The problem comes when I ask about the cost versus outcome impact. Responses usually fall into two categories - either complete bemusement that cost should even enter the equation even bordering on questioning my moral values or regret that no one has done any research to provide such answers.
In a world where budgets are being reduced and money is tight, cost has to be taken into account, particularly when there are more demands than ever on both personal incomes and the public purse. The second point is that there are business cases for significant elements from the sustainability agenda. The LCE led Sustainability Project actually showed that sustainable specifications can lower costs. There is also growing evidence to show the using SMEs and local suppliers can provide both cost reduction, environmental and real equalities benefits.
There are three key points to success in promoting the sustainability agenda.
Being precise as to what it is you are trying to promote and being able to show and measure how your organisation can actually make a difference.
Having a business case to show the value that implementing the policy can bring in terms of cost reductions and improved outcomes for the investment made (NB – this is not the same as just being seen to be doing something).
Making the sustainability agenda mainstream. This means making it an integral part of client facing services and business planning.
While sustainability remains as just another demand on scarce resources and/ or a bandwagon for people to jump on, it will never command the attention that it deserves.