Setting Relevant, Flexible and Measurable Goals
So let’s take a look at being environmentally sustainable. How green is green? First, let’s define environmental sustainability, and there are many ways to do so (remember, I’ve collected more than 101 different definitions—so far). I’m kind of partial to this one from Herman Daly, an American ecological economist and professor at the School of Public Policy of the University of Maryland, College Park:
Environmental sustainability exists as a steady dynamic state “if:
1. Its rates of use of renewable resources do not exceed their rates of regeneration.
2. Its rates of use of nonrenewable resources do not exceed the rate at which sustainable renewable substitutes are developed.
3. Its rates of pollution emission do not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment.”
Many proponents of sustainable development believe in the necessity of measuring sustainable goals as metrics related to current standards; for instance, with paper usage the measurement is often the recycled content of the paper used and the total amount of recycled paper used over a period of time. But wouldn’t it be better to measure the present state against the goal that is trying to be achieved?
Is it the amount of recycled paper used that is the goal, or is it the impact on the total carbon footprint by the use of the recycled paper that is real goal? Here’s an example:
Acme Insurance Company’s in-plant printing operation wants to reduce it’s carbon footprint by 50 percent. The largest amount of consumable resource they use is paper, so they figure they can make the biggest impact with the following changes:
The in-plant uses 100 tons of uncoated virgin paper per year (it’s a big company). They want to convert to using all recycled paper. They convert to using 50 tons of 30 percent recycled content and 50 tons of 100 percent recycled content uncoated paper. The metric for this change could be considered a 100 percent conversion to paper with a 30 percent or more recycled content. Goal accomplished, right? But how does this measure up to the ongoing goal to reduce carbon emissions?