A book review of Adam Werbach’s Strategy for Sustainability
POINT 1 // WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY:
Sustainability is made up of four equal parts:
1. Social // acting as if other people matter —> actions that can affect all members of society
2. Economic // operating profitability—> actions that affect how humans meet their basic needs
3. Environmental // protecting and restoring the ecosystem —> actions that affect earth’s ecology
4. Cultural // protecting and valuing cultural diversity —> actions through which communities manifest identity and preserve and cultivate traditions and customs from generation to generation
Each of these parts needs to be paid equal attention to when creating business strategies in order for your company to suffice as truly sustainable.
POINT 2 // B.H.A.G’s VS North Star Goals // Mapping STaR goals:
B.H.A.G.’s: Clear, compelling, imaginative, tangible, achievable, and bold; take revolutionary steps forward; guide strategy development and unify efforts, fuel progress, rally staff, and require real stretch
North Star goals: Optimistic, aspirational, achievable in five to fifteen years, and personally actionable; connect to the core business and a larger purpose; ignite individuals’ passion in the organization; are incremental steps to solve a global human challenge; and align with organization’s strengths (39-40).
How to map your Social, Technological, and Resource Goals (STaR Goals):
You need to start by looking at challenges through the lens of sustainability. A good way to start is by incorporating categories of sustainability into companies SWOTs. The purpose of the STaR mapping is to sense changes in the external world and find solutions internally.
· Mapping changes in Society = “The ancient Greeks said that a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”
· Mapping changes in Technology = technology requires design, it is value-dependent, and it shapes a society as much as society innovates technology.
· Mapping changes in Resources = “What is the use of a fine house if you have not got a tolerable planet to put it on.” – Henry David Thoreau
It is important to remember that internal organizational qualities are far more important than any absolute goal. Along with your STaR goals you need to enforce a TEN cycle, which stands for Transparency, Engagement, and Networking: “Transparency of information and communications (nature is transparent), engagement of managers and employees at all levels (nature works systemically), and a growing network of sustainability partners (nature forms groups)—makes for a sustainable organization,” (83).
POINT 3 // TRANSPARENCY // ENGAGEMENT // NETWORKS:
Timberland’s CEO Jeffrey Swartz is extremely passionate about sustainable business practices he believes, “Our Industry can become carbon neutral as fast as we demand it. We have the ability to say I won’t buy fashion where the chemicals are used to pollute the environment… It will be the most powerful, popular uprising that corporate America ever saw,” (p. 110). In order to allow consumers to begin this uprising it is the corporation’s responsibility to ensure that consumers are provided with honest information about their products and services so that costumers can begin to pick and choose based on sustainability factors. This is where our talks of greenwashing come into play; Werbach briefly discusses greenwashing and its effects and provides an outline of phases and signs to greater transparency for companies to follow to ensure NO greenwashing //
· Blind Spots: “Even when you’re only beginning to recognize your blind spots, you’re beginning to build a culture that recognizes that you might not be as smart as you think you are,” (96).
· Awareness: you begin to catalog and assess blind spots to understand whether they are episodic or systemic.
· Compliance: compare former blind spots with relevant laws, regulations, and industry behaviors and work to meet those standards.
· Transparency: by widely sharing info about the failure, company will ensure that employees learn from the situation, it will gain the trust of its employees, and it will be able to tap the innovation resource of everyone whom you’ve engaged. (101)
· DO MORE, TALK LESS… people will take note if your business is practicing sustainably from within, without the company having to spend thousands on advertising. “In striving for the good, you invite hope and demand the creation of a new path,” (114).
2. Engagement: “The organization’s task is to make transparency not just a procedural point, but also a part of its culture,” (p. 117). By making transparency inherent in a company’s culture it allows engagement to happen at all levels of employment. The most innovative strategy that a sustainable leader could provide is engaging their entire workforce in their companies goals, “The best ideas come from where real social, economic, environmental, and cultural problems are actually solved, which is not necessarily at the top,”(p. 130). The best way to engage your workforce is by creating personal connections that empower individuals to participate in corporate strategy towards sustainability.
3. Networks: Twenty-first-century companies need to use networks to drive down their costs, increase their accountability, bring themselves closer to customers, and closer to a sustainable planet (152). A healthy network has five dimensions: protocols, activity, strong nodes, transparency, and administration. Each network is only as strong as its nodes.
POINT 4 // LEADERSHIP // GO PAST GREEN TOWARDS BLUE:
“Transparency empowers the trust that helps create engagement,” (168).
Green Manifesto à Blue Manifesto // the differences:
· We have strong environmental values VS we have strong social, economic, environmental, and cultural values.
· There are limits and constraints VS there are possibilities and opportunities.
· We must make food organic VS we can all eat sustainability.
· We need government action VS we need government, market, and community collaboration.
· It is our obligation, our responsibility VS It is our passion, our aspiration.
· We have hope for the planet VS we have faith in people.
· We must stop the madness VS I will change my behavior and invite you to join me.
· The world may not survive for our children VS we can act now and do something for today and for the future.
“Consumers are up in arms. Power has switched from brands to consumers and the Information Age has liberated all of us so that no brand can hide now behind its packaging or its positioning,” Werbach concludes his book by providing proof that sustainable business strategy is both positive and very profitable. The power—thanks to transparency—is now in consumer’s hands as long as the corporations and advertisers (us) perform ethically, honestly, and responsibly and work very hard today for a better tomorrow.
Be engaged. Cause engagement.