eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Sustainability is a Journey

Posted by Luke on May 26, 2010

Sustainability initiatives often draw a certain degree of skepticism.  When a company tries to be sustainable, there is often a line of skeptics challenging its claims and pushing them to be even more green.  It’s consumers’ jobs to push companies to challenge themselves and to do the right thing.  Sustainability wouldn’t happen if we weren’t asking companies to change their environmental impact.  In doing this, though, it’s important to acknowledge a couple key points about sustainability:

  1. Sustainability is a journey
  2. Everyone defines sustainability differently

I often come across people who expect companies to be sustainable overnight.  It just doesn’t happen like that.  If you know how to become sustainable overnight, email me.  We should talk.  From my experience, sustainability requires a change in behaviors and a change in resource allocation.  It’s often a culture shift.  It takes time.  And most companies are resource constrained.  So if a company has developed a solid vision for sustainability and has a plan to execute that vision, it deserves some breathing room to begin down the path.

Another key piece to this is that there are so many different definitions of sustainability.  Everybody has their own definition – within a company or outside of a company.  What is sustainable to one customer might be completely different to another.  This means that companies end up making some customers happy and some not.  In my mind, it all comes back to the need for defining sustainability within your company’s boundaries.  Customers need to know how you view sustainability and what your plan is.  Their expectations need to be brought in line with yours.  Sustainability is a journey.  And a very long journey at that.  Here is an excerpt from an interesting article that elaborates more on this topic:

Perhaps the biggest change will come with the realization that we can never be fully “sustainable” – that sustainability is a never ending journey, a learning process to explore what it means to be fully human in an interconnected world.

Sustainability, from this perspective, is systemic.  It begins when we are able to understand our place in a web of economic, social, cultural and ecological systems – relationships that have always been there but that we have ignored in our single minded focus for profit and economic growth.  It encourages diversity as a key condition for a viable system, and embraces the responsibility to live in ways that allow others to live as well.  Sustainability involves waking up and assuming our personal and collective power as leaders to shape our present and our future. It signals the time to stop the consumerism machine that has dictated what we should have or desire. It is a call to start listening to ourselves, to engage in deep conversations to understand and honor what brings meaning and joy to our lives, and to pay attention to the way we affect and are affected in everything we do.

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