This article looks into community relations and why they matter to businesses. Some people may subscribe to the notion put forward by Milton Friedman that “the business of business is business.” But things change and this is no longer the case. Good community relations can add real value to businesses and poor community relations can impose real costs to businesses.


This article will focus on the opportunities that good community relations present

1. Build a well of good will

A big opportunity that comes with being a leader on corporate responsibility and from developing good community relations is that you can build up a well of good will. Businesses operate within society and within the environment. To be successful businesses depend on access to structures larger than themselves.


By building strong relations with the community within which your business operates, you can solve issues before they become problems.

If people know that your business is approachable and they have seen you being active in the community, they will come to you. They will come to you when there is a minor problem and hopefully you can solve that problem together.

All good businesses will at some point need to expand. That could be expanding on the same site, at a different site in the local area or at a different site in a new area. If your business has developed a well of goodwill through strong management of its community relations, this process will be a lot easier.

Issues such as the planning process can be made far easier by being active in the community. If people know you as a business of high moral standards that looks after its people, the community and the planet, they are less likely to go to extreme lengths to frustrate any planning applications that you may submit.

 2. Build a reputation for excellence

By having a top quality corporate responsibility policy and strategy, your business can develop a reputation for excellence. All businesses want their product or service to be thought of as being of the highest calibre. But community relations matter and all businesses should strive for excellence in this realm too.

Your business should look to campaign on local issues and build local partnerships.

Perhaps there is a homeless charity in the vicinity. Make sure you are there for them when they need you.

Perhaps there is a foodbank in your local area. Be there for them when their supplies are running low.

By being in the right place at the right time and serving the community within which your business exists your business can create a reputation for excellence that is far bigger than the products or services it delivers.

This allows you to build a reputation for excellence. These reputational benefits are highly valuable. They allow you to become a trusted partner in your community and they force people to see you as a giver and not a taker.

3. Build a skilled local workforce

Great companies need great workers. It has been said that we are in a global war for talent. Whether this is true or not, what is clear is that businesses succeed by recruiting and retaining the best staff.

Businesses can gain a greater control over the local labour supply by investing in training local people. Once hired, these people are likely to show greater loyalty and stay for longer than a candidate that has come from afar.

Businesses can also help out by running local CV workshops, allowing their employees to volunteer in the community and by taking students on work experience placements.

All of these activities allow your business to be a key player in building a skilled local workforce. This makes smart business sense and is good for society which is what corporate responsibility is all about.

What you need to know

This article looked into community relations and why they matter to businesses.

Businesses can use strong community relations as a hedge to build up a well of goodwill should they need to take from or place a burden on the community at a later date.

Businesses can use an astute corporate responsibility programme to develop a reputation for excellence that transcends the products or services they deliver.

Businesses can be active in the community and solve problems such as skills shortages themselves.

Overall community relations matter to businesses. They should choose to be active in their communities out of enlightened self-interest because it makes smart business sense. But they should also choose to be active in the communities out of a sense of corporate moral responsibility.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the importance of community relations to businesses?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This book review looks into The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolf Flesch.  Sometimes books grab you. Sometimes you come across the right book at the right time and it moves you. My experience of reading this 1946 work by Rudolf Flesch was one of those moments.



Rudolf Flesch was born in Austria but moved to America and later became a citizen of that country. His life’s work revolved around being a readability expert, a writing consultant and an author. He was a vigorous proponent of plain English and this alongside his readability tests is what he is best known for.

As has happened on many occasions I believe I was directed to this book by a David Ogilvy memo. The ability to write clearly so that the masses understand is a skill that is needed by everyone, not just advertisers.

About the Book

The book begins in wonderfully simple language and continues from there.

This is a book on plain talk. It tells you how to speak and write so that people understand what you mean.”

The first section that grabbed me was the section on sentences. There was a particularly good line that I will copy in full below.

You may wonder why you find so many long sentences in books, magazines, and newspapers. The explanation, to the best of my knowledge, is simply that those sentences are written, not to make it easy for the reader, but to ensnare him like a fly on flypaper, or buttonhole him to attention.”

As someone who has always naturally gravitated towards short sentences this line pleased me. But I think is speaks to a broader importance to make sure that when you write, you write to educate and inspire people, not to confuse them.

Also, in the sentences section there was a breakdown of sentence length and how easy various sentence lengths are to read. It goes as follows.

  • Very easy 8 or less
  • Easy 11
  • Fairly Easy 14
  • Standard 17
  • Fairly Difficult 21
  • Difficult 25
  • Very Difficult 29 or more

This sort of information is really important, because it allows writers to pitch their work to the correct audience. There is nothing wrong with a sentence length of 25 or more. But it is important to realise that this will be more difficult to read because of this. It is also true to say that if you are pitching your work at a mass audience that a sentence length of 17 or less is advised.

The next section that really grabbed me was the section on short cuts. I had always preferred a short and concise style of writing myself, but I found this chapter particularly stirring.

Flesch had an excellent paragraph where he succinctly gets to the bottom of what plain talk is and how brevity helps to get there.

Plain and simple speech appeals to everyone because it indicates clear thought and honest motives. Here is the point: Anyone who is thinking clearly and honestly can express his thoughts in words which are understandable, and in very few of them. Let’s write for the reader and not for ourselves. Make the writing do what it is intended to do.

There was one line in particular which stood out to me and it was on why some writers would fail to heed this advice.

What is it that brings on this long-winded, heartbreaking wordiness? I have a hunch that a writer, feeling defeated in advance, gets lengthy and vague in self-defence. Then, if defeat comes, he can ascribe it to the ignorance of the people addressed.”

It is important not to give up before you have even begun. By writing in plain English you can reach more people and win more people over to your way of thinking.

Towards the end of the paragraph on short cuts Flesch makes one of his boldest statements that: “our present language must be rescued from the curse of confusion.”

What you need to know

This book review looked into The Art of Plain Talk by Rudolf Flesch. For me, this is one of the best books on writing that I have ever come across.

It includes many different ways writers can produce work in plain English. Mastering the art of plain talk necessitates doing more of some things and less of others. Short sentences and short words are the order of the day.

There is no shame in writing for mass audiences. If you are writing about something which you are passionate about you should want to reach and touch as many people as possible with your work.

I have never done this before, but it does seem fitting. My words per sentence for this article was 16.2 and my Flesch Kincaid Grade Level was 7.3.

It is easy to make things complicated, it takes greater skill to make things simple and easy to understand.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of the importance of simple English?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby



This article looks into soil from the perspective of sustainability. Soil is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of sustainability. But, there is a chance that this vital but often overlooked and under loved matter could be influential in combating climate change.


What brought my attention to soil and its role in combatting climate change, was a section that I read in Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins.

There are times when words simply jump out of the page and grab you. My reading of this section was one of those times.

“The world’s cultivated soils contain about twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, whose carbon content is rising by half a percent per year. The earth’s 5 billion acres of degraded soils are particularly low in carbon and in need of carbon absorbing vegetative cover. Increasing degraded soil’s carbon content at plausible rates could absorb about as much carbon as all human activity emits. This would also improve soil, water and air quality.”

I found the entire quotation to be striking. But the penultimate sentence stood out to me for why soil could be a game changer when it comes to climate change.

I was also unaware that 2015 was the International Year of Soils. I was made aware of this by the very useful UNFAO video which I have posted below.

Soils: Our ally against climate change

The key element to focus on is soil health as this is what predicts whether the soil will act like a sink or a source of carbon emissions.

Part of me is still completely amazed by the fact that there is more organic carbon in the soil than in ground vegetation and the atmosphere combined.

What is needed is soil with high levels of organic content as these are the soils that can sequester the most carbon.

What is not needed is excessive levels of deforestation which exposes bare soil to the air, compaction through heavy industrialised agriculture and of course developments which completely cover areas of soil with concrete and structures. These activities have a negative effect on soil’s ability to act as a sink of carbon and cause soils to become a source for greenhouse gasses.

I also thought it would be instructive to look back at Drawdown, which was a book edited by Paul Hawken that looked into the 100 most effective ways to reverse global warming. This was one of the most impressive books that I came across in 2017 and you can find a link to my review below.

Drawdown edited by Paul Hawken

With regards to soil the extract on pages 70-71 which was an extract from The Hidden Half of Nature by Montgomery and Bikle was very interesting. The following quotation stood out in particular.

“By the mid to late twentieth century, chemical-based agricultural practices were causing steady losses of soil carbon, topsoil, and humus, and creating water pollution, crops that were more susceptible to pests, greenhouse gases (nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide), and oceanic dead zones.”

They paint a bleak picture which emphasises the need for change.

The section on page 200-201 on microbial farming was also very relevant to soil and sustainability. I was amazed to find out that “in one gram of soil there can be up to 10 billion denizens, and between 50,000 and 83,000 different species of bacteria and fungi.

On the more technical side I also found the following quotation interesting.

“A healthy soil biome is rich in carbon because soil microbes feed on sugar-rich exudates from the roots of plants; in turn, the bacteria dissolve the rock and minerals and make those nutrients available to plants.”

I am constantly amazed by the processes of the natural world and how it functions.

The section in Drawdown which was most relevant to soil and sustainability was the section on regenerative agriculture. Incredibly, this came in as their 11th most powerful solution for combatting climate change. This section contained the following powerful insight.

“The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Feeding the soil reduces carbon in the atmosphere. Soil erosion and water depletion cost $37 billion in the United States annually and $400 billion globally. Ninety-six percent of that comes from food production.”

What you need to know

This article looked into soil from the perspective of sustainability.

We looked into a quote from Natural Capitalism which showed that soils are a massive store of carbon. It also showed that if managed properly, the soils could become an even larger store of atmospheric carbon and a significant bulwark against climate change.

We also looked into a very instructive video by the UNFAO. This showed both how and why the soil can act as a source or a sink for carbon emissions.

Lastly, we looked at Drawdown for information on the role of soil in reversing climate change. This confirmed that soil has a vital role to play.

Overall, we have to hope that soil is not overlooked in favour of other higher tech and more glamorous solutions to climate change. We also have to hope that many of the impacts that accelerate soil’s transition from a sink to a source of carbon emissions are controlled.

What is clear, is that soil has a fundamental role to play in sustainability.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of soil’s role in sustainability?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into economic growth. It looks into GDP, the main measure of economic progress and the assumptions that underpin this indicator.


Gross domestic product or as it is most commonly referred to GDP, measures the size of a country’s economy over a period of time.

The relevant national statistics authority collects data from thousands of companies. This is used as the basis for the GDP calculations.

The most frequently used method for calculating GDP is to base it on the total amount of spending in the country.

The GDP is then calculated by taking household spending, adding investment, adding government spending and then adding net exports.

As we can see, GDP is an accurate way to measure the health of an economy, but sustainability requires that we think about society and the environment as well. As it is currently calculated, GDP is unable to provide information on these important areas.

The way GDP is calculated includes all expenditures, regardless of whether society or the environment benefit from these transactions.

GDP therefore includes many things which most people would consider to be bad for society or which do not improve the general welfare of a country. It includes money spent to clean up after environmental disasters, money spent on lawyers during divorces, money spent on unnecessary military programs and on prisons. Overall, GDP includes many things, some of which detract from the general welfare of a society.

What is remarkable is how such an indicator, barring a few exceptions such as Bhutan has become the dominant marker of progress and the data point which all countries aspire to increase.

What is clear, is that GDP is simply a gross measure of activity within an economy. It does not make any distinction between spending which is desirable and that which is undesirable. It makes no distinction between spending which places a burden on a country and spending which benefits a country.

Another huge blind spot of GDP is that it is based solely on monetary transactions. Time spent caring for an elderly or disabled relative would not count towards GDP, even though it brings many benefits to that country. Time spent volunteering or helping a neighbour would not count towards GDP even though it helps to improve that society.

GDP then is a highly deceptive measure of national progress. It includes things which are bad and fails to include things which are good. What is more, with the way it is currently calculated and celebrated, it is entirely possible for an increase in things which are bad for a country to be portrayed as a gain.

There are other measures of national progress which diverge widely from GDP’s focus on economics. But perhaps a good start would simply be a more accurate version of GDP.

A more accurate version of GDP would subtract spending on things that harm society and the environment from the GDP figure to arrive at an improved picture. This would leave a more accurate indicator of whether the country is heading in the right direction or not.

What you need to know

This article looked into economic growth. It looked into GDP, which is the main measure of economic progress and the assumptions that underpin this indicator.

We looked into how GDP is calculated by national statistics authorities. We looked into how GDP is a gross figure and so includes undesirable spending which may be harmful to society and the environment.

I know that my prognosis and the prognosis of others is that the undesirable spending should be subtracted to arrive at the net positive figure. That would be a more reliable indicator. It would be interesting to see what the counter arguments to this proposal would be.

Taking into account everything that we have looked at in this short article, what is clear to me, is that there just isn’t the level of debate or criticism necessary in order to move to a more sensible indicator of national progress.

It seems that GDP has assumed an almost mythical status as the indicator of choice for national progress. More needs to be done to call out what is wrong with this indicator and to propose workable indicators that can guide decision makers in business and in government.

Even the staunchest defenders of GDP would have to admit that the indicator does not provide information on social or environmental progress in a country. It stands to reason therefore that people are being deceived by their GDP figures. They are being told that a rising number is always good and that a falling number is always bad. As with all indicators, it is important to look at the assumptions that underpin it and how that figure was calculated.

I believe that this is an issue which is highly relevant to sustainability. When you have most of the countries in the world obsessively focussed on an indicator which deviates so far from reality. That creates a system with a slow drift towards unsustainability when we need the exact opposite to be happening.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of GDP as an indicator and do you have a better way forward?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into the benefits of buying recycled products. Recycling is an activity that is synonymous with sustainability. Many people think it is simply about doing the right thing, but there is more to it than that. Buying recycled products allows you to play a part in building a better world socially, economically and environmentally.


Business & Marketing Benefits

There are business and marketing benefits to be gained from buying recycled inputs when compared to their virgin counterparts.

If you are a company and you make products you need to meet the market’s expectations and deliver what consumers want.

There is a fantastic study by WRAP that captured my imagination and I will use it to demonstrate this point.

The title of the study is Recycled plastic packaging – the consumer’s view and I highly recommend that you seek out the original paper as it contains some powerful insights.

In answer to the question Should packaging contain recycled plastic? The results were very impressive with 86% of consumers feeling that it would be good if packaging contained recycled plastic. As you can see from the chart below, there is clearly an appetite for products that that come in packaging that contains recycled plastic.

WRAP Study on recycling

Companies spend a great deal of time trying to create and shape their brand. This is an area where the injection of sustainability can help.

In the WRAP study 74% of respondents felt that the reputation of a retailer or manufacturer would be enhanced if its products’ packaging were made from recycled plastic. As you can see from the chart below, this is an important finding and an opportunity that businesses shouldn’t be missing out on.

WRAP brand study on recycling

Companies reputations in the marketplace matter enormously. Having people think positively about your business and your products is an important step to winning new customers and retaining old ones.

When asked, 78% of respondents said they would feel more positive about a product or manufacturer whose packs were made of recycled plastic. This finding is important and should encourage more suppliers to look at recycled packaging.

As the chart below shows, using recycled packaging is an effective way to create a feel-good factor about your company and products in the marketplace.

WRAP positive affirmations study

Overall, all three charts demonstrate why smart businesses would try to look for ways of integrating recycled materials into their operations. When you find a situation where business and environmental interests come into alignment, that is an opportunity that you need to take advantage of.

Support Innovation

By investing in recycled products or in businesses that make use of recycled products you are helping to support innovation. This also sends a signal to the marketplace that they should invest more in these areas in the future, creating a virtuous cycle of sustainable growth.

Investing in recycled products means that more competition will come into this space. This new interest and competition will hopefully lead to innovations in design to make more packaging recyclable.

Extra demand for products that are made with recycled and recyclable components and packaging has further benefits. It will help to increase interest in this sector and hopefully lead to technical innovations that lower costs for recyclers and make the whole sector an attractive space for investors.

Overall, by focussing your procurement efforts, whether as a business or as a consumer on products that make use of recycled materials and are themselves recyclable, you can help to support this industry and support innovation to help drive progress forward.

Environmental Benefits

There are significant environmental benefits to buying recycled products. Recycled products tend to be less energy intensive and often have a lower environmental impact their virgin counterparts.

Buy buying recycled products, this avoids the need for oil to be drilled, ores to be mined forests to be logged and glass to be smelted.

With regards to paper, buying recycled uses 90% less water and 50% less energy than making it from raw materials.

This is my personal favourite statistic and is why it is important to emphasise that every can counts. Recycling one aluminium drinks can saves up to 95% of the energy needed to make it from scratch.

What is more, recycling 1 tin can saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours. Whilst recycling 1 glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes. Whereas recycling 1 plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours. These statistics make clear that there are many environmental benefits that come about because of the recycling process.

Overall, it is important to be aware of the disparity in environmental performance between products that use virgin materials and products that make use of recycled materials.

What you need to know

This article looked into the benefits of buying recycled products.

For business owners and managers, there are a lot of business benefits to making products with recycled materials.

For people interested in progress and innovation, buying products made of recycled materials allows you to support an industry and to help make it more significant.

Lastly, there are many environmental benefits that come about when you buy products made of recycled materials.

It is important to be aware of and act upon these factors when you are buying things as a consumer or as a business.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think are the benefits of buying recycled products?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


This article looks into China’s recent waste import restrictions. What is the impact of these sweeping changes and what does it tell us about recycling in Europe and North America?


For more than 30 years, China has been the world’s largest importer of waste and recyclable materials. Its enormous size and booming economy which was hungry for cheap inputs made it the ideal magnet for recycled materials from developed countries. Furthermore, reverse logistics whereby ships sailing back to China could benefit from reduced shipping costs and an army of cheap labour willing to do dirty and dangerous work solidified China’s position as the major final destination for recycled commodities.

Both sides of this arrangement benefited from comparative advantage. Advanced economies specialise in the collection of materials and have a lot of mixed packaging left over from consumption. Whilst China could specialise in the sorting and remanufacturing of materials into products which would be later consumed internally or exported overseas. This is big business; in 2016 China imported 45 million tonnes of scrap metal, waste paper and plastic with a value over $18 billion.


Whilst often described as a ban, the process which was initiated in July 2017 and which came into force in January 2018 was really more of a quality control measure. It is true that 24 types of recyclable and solid wastes will be banned. This includes unsorted paper and plastics. But the new rules do not ban the import of plastic and paper outright. The Chinese government is however lowering the minimum contamination level from 1.5% to 0.5%. This is a tough but not impossible target.

Contamination is a term that will probably not be familiar to the general public, but is a common bugbear of those working in waste management and cleaning services. It is a broad term and many items can be considered contaminants. Contamination happens when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclables. When this happens a great deal of good quality materials can be spoiled. Some offenders are worse than others, with food, liquids and nappies being particularly problematic.

Looking at the China import restrictions, they have a point. They are paying for recyclable inputs, but they were only getting 98.5% of what they were paying for. These heavily contaminated materials, if imported to China are worthless and will have to be disposed of by incineration or landfill in their own domestic waste management facilities. These cases of rotting meat and soiled nappies as was recently the case in Brazil have happened on too many occasions, and China has had no other option but to take evasive action.

So whilst there has been a lot of finger pointing at China for the speed at which they have enacted these changes, perhaps the root cause of the problem lays a little closer to home. Local governments and businesses have to find a way to make recycling clearer and to reduce contamination levels. This would mean that intermediate sorting stations and materials recovery facilities (MRF’s) will have a cleaner feedstock with which to process and if necessary export.

The culture of recycling in developed countries has to change. Perhaps this latest restriction could be the wakeup call that was long overdue and sorely needed. For too long an out of sight out of mind mentality has pervaded. People treat resources wastefully and behave as if their actions have no consequences. This, as we can see, is not the case at all. I fully expect to see further measures enacted by local governments and waste carriers who will have to bear the brunt of these changes.

Perhaps it is also a wakeup call to process and remanufacture more of these materials in our own countries. Whilst it was no doubt convenient to export our problems to China, this window is closing and new options will have to be investigated. Labour costs are dramatically higher in developed countries, but this could be overcome with better technology and labour saving devices.

Nothing stays the same forever and things do change. No one country will be able to import waste on the same scale as China. The most likely destinations are other Asian economies like the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. But still the onus is on developed economies to take ownership and control of this situation before serious backlogs begin to build up.

What you need to know

This article looked into China’s recent waste import restrictions. The impact is that as of January 2018 24 types of recyclable and solid wastes are now banned. Furthermore, new quality control restrictions apply to the import of paper and plastics, with the minimum contamination level reduced from from 1.5% to 0.5%. This will impact on businesses, local authorities and waste carriers who will have to meet these new standards should they wish to export materials to China.

What this tells us about recycling in Europe and North America is that China has been bailing out our recycling industries for 30 years and that era has come to an end. For a long time it made sense to export the packaging back to China, whose export industries thrived on low cost inputs. But the contamination issue has clearly become problematic and has been placing a large environmental and social burden on the country.

The future will no doubt involve some exports to a range of developing countries that will use these as inputs for their own development. But clearly more work is needed to process these materials domestically in developed economies.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think of China’s waste import restrictions and what needs to be done to solve this issue before it becomes a problem?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby




This article focusses on how organisations can institutionalise sustainability. Failing to do this is a key reason why organisations fail to fulfil their potential and become less sustainable than they could be.


When individuals fail to fulfil their potential, this is a tragedy. When organisations fail to achieve all that they possibly can, this is also a tragedy.

Sustainability is not so unique, although it does require change on a scale that may appear radical to those not familiar with the subject matter. Like any business idea or philosophy, it has to be embedded within the company to have a real impact and to have any chance of long term success.

It is for this reason that bolt-on sustainability strategies fail to achieve the level of transformation that is needed. Sustainability needs to be institutionalised within any organisation for it to be considered as a sustainability leader.

A Cambridge dictionary definition of institutionalise is:

to make something become part of a particular society, system, or organization”

I think it is a great word and it perfectly captures what needs to happen.

The climb up mount sustainability is long and winding. There are many challenges that need to be overcome, many processes that need to be reorganised or eliminated and a culture of sustainability needs to fostered and then embedded.

As tough as these challenges sound, with the right governance in place and board level buy in, all organisations can become more sustainable and some can become sustainability leaders.

Let’s look at the key ways you can institutionalise sustainability in your organisation.

1. Vision

All companies have vision statements. Many of these sound the same and are ridden with clichés and business buzzwords.

The hallmark of a sustainability leader is the successful integration of sustainability into their vision statement. Once you have done this sustainability becomes a focal point in the organisation and everyone can be clear that it is a top priority.

Obviously talk is cheap and this vision needs to be met with bold actions if the organisation is to become more sustainable socially and environmentally.

A good organisation in this regard is ARM, who I have mentioned before because I really like them.

They integrate aspects of sustainability into their vision statement, without dampening their commitment to business expansion.

“To create a world where all electronic products and services, based upon energy efficient technology from ARM, make life better for everyone”

Overall, having a mission statement that includes sustainability is a great way to institutionalise sustainability in any organisation.

2. Strategy

Aligning your strategy with sustainability is another key way to institutionalise sustainability.

This avoids the problem that many companies experience, whereby they have a primary business strategy and a bolt-on sustainability strategy. This leads to chronic underperformance in sustainability and a failure to capitalise on the opportunities which sustainability presents.

A great company who has aligned their business strategy and their sustainability strategy is Xerox. By redefining their role in the marketplace from seller of printing and copying machines to provider of printing and copying services, they have been able to perform strongly on sustainability and rewrite the rules of their market.

By retaining responsibility for the the equipment’s disposal, they can recycle and remanufacture old machines into new ones and customers don’t have to invest heavily in a machine only for it to be superseded by a superior model. Everyone wins.

Overall, to institutionalise sustainability it is important that it is integrated into the business strategy and not bolted on as an afterthought.

3. Rewards

Aligning an organisations rewards system can go a long way to institutionalising sustainability.

There is a lot of focus on rewards. This is predominantly concentrated on cash bonuses delivered to executives as a reward for performance. I have always been sceptical as to how much of a link there is between these two phenomena.

People do like money and people do perform for money. But to sustain peak performance over a long period of time, you have to inspire people.

I came across this great quotation from Robert B Shapiro, a former CEO of Monsanto.

People in large numbers won’t give their all for protracted periods of time – with a cost in their overall lives – for an abstraction called a corporation or an idea called profit. People can only give to people

People need to be rewarded by being allowed to engage in meaningful and interesting work. You trusted these people enough to hire them; you need to trust them to solve problems related to sustainability.

A great example in this regard is 3M. They introduced their pioneering pollution prevention pays (3P) program in 1975. This has been an incredibly successful corporate transformation programme, which is still in use today.

The initiative is made up of thousands of employee generated and employee owned projects that reduce pollution and save the business money.

The programme continues to be a success for this global company because it was successfully integrated into the businesses processes and corporate culture.

Overall, to institutionalise sustainability it is important to align rewards systems with more than just money. Passion and purpose can serve as valuable incentives.

4. Human Resources

It goes without saying that if you are hiring in house sustainability experts that they need to have a vision aligned with the principles of sustainable development.

But what about for other hires?

How often do you introduce sustainability principles into your interview questions?

How often does having an interest sustainability win out in a tie breaker between two equally talented prospective candidates?

Overall, if you never hire for sustainability, you can never become a sustainability leader. By introducing sustainability principles into your HR processes, you can make a big difference in institutionalising sustainability.

What you need to know

This article looked into how organisations can institutionalise sustainability.

An organisation that has institutionalised sustainability has fully integrated the principles of sustainable development and made it a part of its fabric.

We looked into some ways in which businesses can do this.

It can be achieved by integrating sustainability into the company’s vision. It can be achieved by incorporating sustainability into the company’s primary strategy. It can be achieved by aligning rewards systems and HR systems with sustainability principles.

Individually these are powerful methods for institutionalising sustainability, but if used in combination, they are even more powerful.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you believe is the best way to institutionalise sustainability within an organisation?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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