3 missteps to avoid when setting the pace for sustainability

3 missteps to avoid when setting the pace for sustainability

I’m unclear as to whether it’s due to the post-Olympics hangover or because an entire high school track team left me in the dust during yesterday’s jog. But today I find myself deeply struck by the poor race strategy deployed by many leaders of corporate energy and sustainability programs – even the good ones.

What? You say this is a race? Most definitely. Conceiving, launching and maintaining an effective energy and sustainability management focus is perhaps one of the longest and hardest races a company will face. This is a race againstdwindling and shifting energy, water and raw material sources. A race for the best talent from a generation that cares where they work and how they spend their dollars. It’s also a race against the physics of achanging climate.

Many companies have yet to fully grasp that not only has the starting gun sounded, but that they’re in the pack – complete with shorty running shorts, sweatbands and all. And shareholders, civil society and future generations on the sidelines are alternately cheeringjeering and judging their progress.

So what’s a great long-distance runner to do? Let’s begin by showing up to the starting line with a race plan on what to avoid in order to make steady progress.

While we all know that planning is critical when it comes to any business strategy, there are three major missteps that leaders often make when conceiving and executing their energy and sustainability plans.

  1. Put a focus on just funding the hand that is raised.

Projects that are funded are often projects that someone champions. While organizations love champions, best practice would caution you to share the love only when they’re championing the right project for the organization at the right time.

Before getting off the starting block, assess all the projects you could do. How? Get a third-party opinion on your organization’s readiness to change. Conduct facility and operations audits. Look at potential projects from the multiple dimensions of required capital, ROI, environmental benefit and PR potential. Prioritize, then execute. Fill in with champions as needed.

  1. Create financial vehicles that get you to mile marker one (the beloved low-hanging fruit), but beyond reach for later-stage projects.

If you are like most of your peers, you love talking with your CFO about the low-hanging fruit and stop scheduling meetings with her as soon as that fruit is picked. Rather than sprinting through the low-hanging fruit only to be left staring — mouth agape — at the higher branches that are just out of reach, establish upfront funding mechanisms that ensure capital availability for later-stage projects that are both important and costly. Get the commitment from your organization to set aside a portion of efficiency “savings” for reinvestment in capital-intensive projects.

Early stage projects have stopped your organization from throwing money down the drain hand over fist through avoidable inefficiency. Is it really too much to ask to reinvest some of that savings into long-term projects so the company can avoid similar mistakes in the future? You’ve earned your street cred with that easy, beautiful, low-hanging fruit. Make sure the company allows you to continue playing it forward.

  1. Prioritize style over substance

If you care about energy and sustainability, you probably dream of solar panels and wind turbines and talk excitedly about the concept of closed-loop material systems. Yet until your company has squeezed every ounce of efficiency from the stone that is your infrastructure and operation protocols, capital intensive next-generation technologies that have a poor payback should not be a focus. Put efficiency to work by saving your organization dollars every minute of every day. This way, you’ll actually have more cash to invest in those projects that just don’t quite pencil out today.

I’m not saying renewable energy or next-gen technologies are bad or a distraction, but I am saying they have a place, and that place is not at the foundation of the strategy.

In college I represented a team of friends in an intramural race. I ran as fast as I could – no pacing, no strategy. Truth be told, I was badly hung over. I won. I was also 20. That strategy today would leave me sidelined, bruised and crying out for four Advil.

As business leaders, we cannot rely on the vigor of youth to compensate for sound strategy and discipline. We’re racing with the big boys and girls now, and the consequences of our performance have a real world impact on us, our organizations and everything we care about. Let’s advance our collective race strategy, settle in to a fast but manageable pace that can be maintained for the long haul, and look to each other for moral support to keep pushing until the finish line is crossed.

Source / Fuente: greenbiz.com

Author / Autor:  Dan Olson

Date / Fecha: 18/09/12

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