Corporate Culture Change: The Ultimate ‘Intangible’

January 17, 2014

<<The following is a summary of Jeff's presentation at the December 2013 Sustainability Symposium hosted by theTennessee Department of Environment & Conservation >>

Impalpable, untouchable, incorporeal, discarnate, abstract.  In other words, "unable to be touched or grasped; not having a physical presence."  This is the definition of "intangible."

In the world of sustainability, Culture Change is the ultimate intangible. It is the one thing that sustainability leaders all seem to want but no one knows the recipe for how to get it. We know it when we see it and feel it (Patagonia), but we don't know how to get from here to there. 

Most folks start their sustainability programs with (and rightly so) on the tangibles -- the environmental metrics. This is because the environmental issues are measurable, quantifiable, and tangible. Water used, waste recycled, CO2 emissions and others. These aren't easy. But at least they are tangible.

Often, the tangibles is where sustainability starts but also where it ends. Why? Because the needed culture change -- to usher sustainability into the higher realms of action and results -- never happens.


Now I don't have the "silver bullet" answer or the exact recipe for culture change around sustainability -- every company is different. But I have learned some best practices from my work on six Fortune 500 sustainability projects over the past twelve years.


Here they are:

* Establish the CEO as "on-board" and the head cheerleader for sustainability
* Eliminate the ‘unacceptable’ (e.g.throw-away styrofoam)
* Ensure the ‘expected’ (e.g. recycling bins)
* Foster employee engagement activities (e.g. community cleanups)
* Send the signal of future efforts by setting goals (particularly outside of Operations)
* Target all products and services, not just one or two, for sustainability,
* Communicate! sustainability reports are now ‘table stakes’
* Be transparent and out-front of the story, especially in the supply chain
* Across the board: be honest, unique and compelling


These are just the summary bullet points. If you would like to discuss further, please, let's meet and discuss at a local coffeeshop.
Twitter: JGowdyConsult





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