- Examine the growing focus on green business practices and sustainability
Close your eyes and try to picture yourself walking around during the Industrial Revolution. What do you see? Maybe rows and rows of employees with their heads down, working away on the task at hand. Maybe you see an assembly line, quickly working a product down the row. You may picture managers in early 1900s clothing, observing their employees from an observation deck as they work. Or maybe you picture the outside of a factory, with smoke billowing out of smokestacks, evidence of the production occurring within the building.
Let’s focus on those smoke stacks for a minute.
Do you think that companies during the Industrial Revolution cared about their carbon footprint? Do you think they even knew that their business could have a negative impact on our environment? If they did, do you think they would care enough to change their practices? Do you think their customers and local citizens would demand better environmental practices if they knew the impact of pollution? While these considerations may not have been important questions in the past, they are now critical in today’s society, as climate change becomes an ever-present issue.
You may have heard of modern terms like sustainability, going green, carbon footprint, or triple bottom line. These terms play an important role in modern society and sustainability specifically, is becoming common practice as consumers are becoming more aware of the impact companies have on the environment.
Starbucks is the first store that comes to mind when people think about national coffee shop chains—after all, there are over 13,000 locations in the United States alone. In fact, in some cities, you can be within walking distance of 30 different Starbucks locations at once.
Starbucks is taking action to show its dedication “going green.” In fact, if you visit their website, they have a portion of their website dedicated to enacting sustainable solutions where they talk about enacting change in their stores, their packaging, and their power solutions. They even are participating in strategies to address climate change issues.
In 2018, as a part of their mission, Starbucks announced a change in the way they deliver their drinks: they will use cups made from all recyclable material and stop using plastic straws by 2020:
We're removing plastic straws in our stores globally by 2020—reducing more than 1 billion plastic straws per year from our stores.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) July 9, 2018
If you read through the comments, you can see Starbucks replying to concerns about not having a straw option, letting customers know that there will be straws available for those who need them but that the straws will be made of alternative materials.
Take a look at this article from Forbes all about how companies are being driven to more green solutions due to customer choice and demands: A Surprising Push By The Invisible Hand: Why More Companies Are Doing Better By Being Good
Sustainability is a balancing act. It is the ability to successfully perform tasks in the present, while also doing what is necessary to protect the future. Sustainability in regards to the environment includes reducing your carbon footprint and changing operations to be more environmentally friendly. Companies that choose to practice sustainability face many challenges. While many organizations are in agreement that sustainability is important, few have found a way to successfully implement sustainable practices. Change towards sustainability starts with the organizational level but is executed at the individual and group level. Organizational behavior needs to change on all three levels in order to be successful.
Let’s look at a simple example of how to implement sustainability. Imagine a company is trying to reduce their paper usage. In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but what’s the best way to make it happen? In order to be successful, the three levels of influence must work together.
First, the company needs to implement a company-wide goal to reduce paper usage. Most importantly, they need to explain the plan for how to achieve this goal. Then, the groups and individuals within the company need to change their daily behaviors to meet the goal. Now, what happens if no one reiterates the goal/plan? Probably nothing. The goal of minimizing paper usage would be a thing of the past. The follow-through of the plan is equally as important as the goal itself. Paper usage would need to become a common topic of conversation. It would need to become a part of the company’s culture through consistent training, purposeful discussions, and regular evaluations.
The paper usage example, in a nutshell, explains the complications of sustainability in today’s society. It’s easy to set a goal to become more sustainable. It becomes more complicated to create a plan to reach the goal of sustainability. More difficult still is the ability of an organization to follow-through and instill the plan within their culture. Changing an organization’s behavior to meet sustainability goals is not a quick and easy thing. It takes lots of time, energy, consistency, and motivation to successfully lessen an organization’s carbon footprint. While most organizations recognize the importance of going green, many are still struggling to successfully evolve their organization’s behavior to meet sustainability goals.