What Are The Barriers To Sustainability?

This article analyses three common barriers to sustainability within organisations.


They are:

1.      Institution inertia

2.     Capital expenditure

3.     Perfect timing

Achieving sustainability within organisations is not a simple task. But, with the right mind set and a willingness to overcome the barriers identified in this article, it can be achieved quicker than you think.

The good news is that sustainability is fast becoming a major area of competition between companies. Sustainability is the most important conversation happening in business right now. This is a growing conversation, which continues to get louder.

Your businesses ability to overcome the barriers identified in this article will determine to a very great extent whether you can develop a recognised position for excellence in sustainability.

1.     Institution inertia

Institutional inertia is a common barrier to sustainability within businesses.

Change is hard.  Particularly with regards to sustainability, where there are no clear rules to follow and a need to tailor individual solutions for individual businesses. Organisational change may be hard, but it is certainly achievable.

Management guru Peter Drucker once remarked:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

This adage is highly relevant to sustainability, where old entrenched ideas can linger among employees. Despite how unsustainable some behaviours such as side desk bins, unnecessary business flights and unlimited at work printing are, many see these as a perk of the job or a rite of passage.

That is why it is so important to change the company culture to one that celebrates sustainability. I know this is easier said than done and it is not something that can be achieved overnight, but it can be done.

With an organisation where sustainability is a social norm and where sustainable behaviours are celebrated and encouraged, businesses can begin to flourish sustainably. Changing the company culture is vital, because the sustainability department or persons responsible for sustainability are unlikely to be able to be in all places at all times. Once a culture of sustainability is established, it becomes self-policing.

How this barrier can be overcome will be the subject of a subsequent article.

2.     Capital expenditure

Capital expenditure is a common barrier to sustainability within businesses.

Whilst there are many low cost solutions that can be implemented to reform businesses to become more sustainable, to make significant headway on sustainability capital expenditure is required.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Money is needed to keep the lights on, for procurement and for employees’ salaries. It is hardly surprising, that to achieve sustainability, businesses would have to invest money and to be really ambitious, serious amounts of money.

A great way to ensure funds are directed towards sustainability is to remember that sustainability is a major point of competition between companies and an area that customers and other stakeholders expect companies to be excelling in.

It is also important to emphasise that many investments in sustainability are not just investments in the future and building a better world, they are investments with a return. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

3.     Perfect timing

Perfect timing is another common barrier to sustainability within businesses.

When is the perfect time to go big on sustainability? When is the best time to invest in new technologies? It’s hard to know or to calculate. Sustainability continues to grow in importance and technology continues to improve.

One thing is for certain, is that if you do nothing, there will be no change. Not even trying is the worst crime of all.

Sadly, this is the barrier that many businesses become trapped in. Always kicking sustainability into the next quarter or the next financial year, these quarters and years add up as time passes by.

Particularly if you want to use sustainability to attract investment, win new customers or hold on to existing clients, timing sustainability perfectly is an impossible challenge. The best time to start your sustainability journey is now.

What you need to know

This article analysed three common barriers to sustainability within organisations.

No two businesses are the same, but the barriers identified are classic barriers that can prevent or delay action on sustainability. Businesses who are successful on sustainability manage to overcome these, but for too many businesses, they become their excuse for inaction on sustainability.

They are:

1.      Institution inertia

2.     Capital expenditure

3.     Perfect timing

Sustainability is quickly becoming a major area of competition between companies. Businesses wouldn’t dream of not excelling in sales, marketing or customer service. Why then should it be acceptable for some businesses to operate without considering the sustainability of their operations? We can only hope that sustainability develops further and becomes mainstream, so that businesses that do not excel in sustainability become the outcasts and eventually either reform or retire from service.

A future where all businesses operate sustainably and responsibly is more than achievable. It is the sort of hopeful and optimistic vision for the future that is needed to encourage mass participation in building a better world.

We will learn more about sustainability in subsequent posts.

Thank you for reading

By Barnaby Nash

Contact Details

Mobile: 07745 904 128

Email: barnaby.nash@gmail.com

Blog: barnabythinks.wordpress.com

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