Could Sustainability be a Key to Survival?
You may think things are bad now—and you’re right, they are—but today’s ongoing economic concerns are obscuring what may prove to be even bigger strategic challenges ahead. These will affect corporations, government agencies and higher education, as well as their in-plants.
We have been in a long period of profound anxiety and uncertainty. Everywhere we look we see that administrators, executives and leaders are examining all aspects of the core business they are responsible for, looking for ways to cut costs due to shrinking revenue streams and smaller budgets. What can an in-plant do to keep itself out of the target sights of the cost cutters?
Be sustainable, that’s what!
B.J. Brown, in a book titled “Global Sustainability: Towards Measurement,” defined sustainable development this way: “To be the indefinite survival of the human species (with a quality of life beyond mere biological survival) through the maintenance of basic life support systems (air, water, land, biota) and the existence of infrastructures and institutions which distribute and protect the components of these systems.”
Do I think that an in-plant print shop can save the human species? Well, not by itself. But we fall under that last sentence, don’t you think?...“The existence of infrastructures and institutions which distribute and protect the components of these systems.” An operating in-plant plays a critical role in any organization's sustainable efforts. You just need to make the higher-ups aware of that.
Naysayers might argue that when financial considerations are on the table, decision makers don’t think highly of sustainability. Well, that’s wrong. Check this out:
“One of the real concerns of sustainability advocates is that the stagnant global economy will put pressure on businesses and organizations to freeze, moderate or even eliminate sustainability-oriented programs and messages. At a time when corporate profits have cratered and nearly everyone's job seems at risk, the belief is that spending on sustainability will be lumped in with other examples of unnecessary corporate excess, like corporate jets and stadium luxury suites.
“A review of recent studies and surveys suggest that, in fact, the opposite is true: Companies that aggressively pursue sustainability will put themselves in a position of unique strategic advantage. Ultimately, this can lead to more efficient business practices, an enhanced brand and improved fiscal performance.” (Green Biz, April 2009)
The public sector falls under these conditions just as much as private corporations (although I don’t know of many school districts, universities or state printers with private jets and sky boxes). The bottom line (and isn’t that really what it’s all about) is that sustainability is mainstream and sustainable development in business is just as important in strategic planning as anything else. In fact, many organizations are redefining their mission and vision statements to include sustainable business practices as a primary goal.
You may think that any commercial printer with some type of sustainability certification would satisfy the needs of your parent organization. Well, you are partially right; they may in fact do that. But for a company or institution to shut down an in-plant to use an outside source is not sustainable. That type of action actually is in direct opposition to the standards of true sustainability.
So how do you survive? First and foremost you must have a true commitment to, and plan for being, a sustainable operation. You should have a sustainable strategic plan, metrics for reporting and most of all a voice in the sustainable efforts of your parent organization.
I think just about every organization (public and private) has a sustainability department, group, committee or something along those lines. Did you know that the newest C-Level executives are CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers)? Make sure you know what your organization's sustainable programs are all about.
After having a plan, and legitimacy in that plan, the next most important thing to do for sustainable survival is make yourself known. Market your sustainable business efforts. Demonstrate your commitment to sustainable business. And most of all show your colors.
They should be green.