At the end of 2008, I posted my thoughts on the positive impact of the recession on sustainability.
People have asked me if I continue to maintain that organizations can pursue a sustainability path even when times are tough. Peeling the onion one layer, I can say that energy reduction comes with cost reduction. In a recession that ROI is there even more so.
But, we need to peel the onion another layer. Sustainability is more than reducing energy usage and more even than environmental impact. Sustainability is our holistic impact (social, economic and environmental) on the communities in which we do business. The well-being of those communities on which we depend for our employees, investors and markets, determines the long term health of our businesses.
I think we need some substantive change to make our business frameworks more sustainable and that is where I see the most significant opportunity from the current recession.
When profits are good it can be hard to gain the support to make substantive change. After all, why change the status quo? In troubled times there is more preparedness to try out new models.
As the glimmers of hope are starting to appear in the economy, we need to build new and different models to support that regrowth -- new models that are not dependent on increased material consumption for prosperity and new models that break the linkage between economic growth and energy consumption. Once we have grown and everything looks rosy, it will be too late again. Therefore, we need to build consensus now on what the new more sustainable models for business need to look like.
I maintain that not only can organizations pursue a sustainability path even when times are tough, but I hold out hope that this downturn is an opportunity to make a step change for the better in the way corporations approach sustainability.