Sustainable Development Journey

How far on the sustainable development journey is your company? Do its interest lie in complying with the environmental regulations only or is your company being proactive in ensuring risk management is introduced in order to reduce environmental liabilities? Or is it so far on this journey that it has sustainable development integrated into its business strategy?

Is your company asking you to get involved in its sustainable development initiatives? We’ve all seen numerous idea generating programs run in companies with the goal of awarding employees that come up with productivity increasing/cost reducing ideas. But how many companies do you know of that have introduced formal programs to collect and award employee or customers ideas that contribute to the sustainable development/have positive impact on the environment?

Marks & Spencer, a company that wants to lead the retail industry by 2015 when it comes to sustainable development, has launched numerous new commitments within its ecological and ethical strategy. It has also introduced a competition named ‘Your Green Idea’ where it is encouraging its customers to send ideas for environment friendly actions M&S should consider. The award is 100K pounds to spend on “greening an organisation such as a school, charity or small business”.

Canada Revenue Agency has sustainable development strategy with well defined goals, performance measures and timelines. It also encourages employee involvement and rewards employee contributions to sustainable development. It communicates its sustainable development commitment to candidates interested in employment opportunities within CRA.

So where does your company stand in this? Have you been asked to contribute your ideas to its sustainable development strategy? And if you were to look for a new job tomorrow, how important would company’s sustainable development commitment be in your job search?

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Posted in climate change, corporate sustainability, economic development, sustainable development
4 comments on “Sustainable Development Journey
  1. barrytang says:

    I did some surfing and found that M&S also launched a innovative clothing recycling program in 2010. The novel idea gives shoppers the opportunity to trade in their old garments in exchange for a voucher for a discount towards a new purchase. Through this program it raised over $2.5M (sterling pounds) for various NGO’s. Cool, no?

  2. Caroline says:

    In the three corporate entities (banking) I have worked in, sustainability has never seemed to be at the forefront of their business – it has always been about profit. We have had people in roles dedicated to sustainability and improving our ecological footprint, and I think that other staff have seemed to have assumed that those people were think about sustainability for us, and we could focus on the “core business” of making money. I work in “green” buildings that recycle water, use external air to cool and heat, with recycling and paper use minimisation programs. To my cynical eye, all of these have been done to reduce costs, not to be more sustainable (although as long as we reach the right outcome, it doesn’t matter why I suppose).

    I’m not suggesting that these organisations have been greenwashing, just that they only implement sustainable strategies after they have been proven effective elsewhere.

  3. tyep says:

    I agree with Caroline’s point that some businesses do make sustainable decisions not to be more sustainable but to reduce costs.

    A perfect example of this is Walmart. The company that is known for low prices has been doing quite a bit of work to make green their supply chain. This article talks a little more about it and also highlights one of my favorite “green” companies, Patagonia (

    Although I am far from a Walmart supporter, because of their size, they are able to force change upon their suppliers a lot easier than a smaller company. Even though I argue that their reasons for doing this are far from wanting to be more sustainable, they are ultimately being more sustainable and having a huge impact on the retail industry.

    In the age of capitalism, I think this is a fairly good example of sustainable development. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to start shopping at Walmart.

  4. I likewise agree that my employers have not necessarily always seen sustainability as a core strategy.

    As you will have noted from my blog on the ivory towers, I don’t believe the universities in Ontario are anywhere close to where they should be. For most universities, the embracing of sustainability has been a necessity, rather than a leadership opportunity. Instead of promoting and operationalizing our breakthroughs in sustainable research, we wait for the students to become increasingly vocal and dictating that certain wastes be eliminated, and then we take action.

    We renovate buildings with green systems when we finally recognize that we can not only realize significant savings (the cost side) but that we can acquire environmental funding (the revenue side) and that we can promote these for increased student enrolment (future earnings).

    So maybe the higher education institutions are not totally altruistic in their pursuits, but the bottom line is that they have business schools which turn out MBAs, and from these minds, we can advance a compelling argument for proceeding in the right direction.

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