Why Sustainability Metrics are Increasingly Important

IMG_3894There’s a moment in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator when all seems hopeless.  The task of just surviving is simply too great until our hero “Dutch” spots a drop of alien blood on a leaf and utters the line…. “If it bleeds we can kill it”.

While it’s rather obviously obviously set up to play with our emotions I rather childishly like the way it provides a catharsis and a complete mood shift, from helplessness and weakness to opportunity and strength.

Equally I was struck by the passion with which Mike Berners-Lee in his book “There is No Planet B” warned of the dangers of re-bounds when dealing with technology.  How expecting IT in particular to drive positive change led to unexpected and negative outcomes.

He cautions against any notion of technology providing a “silver bullet” and urges us all to take responsibility for our own actions, for reducing our consumption, for using our purchasing strength wisely and for lobbying those in power.

As we consider the urgent question of how to improve sustainability we have lessons to learn from both.  We cannot let the enormity of the task overwhelm us.  We have to look for, and build on, the positives we can find.  Measuring where we are today and setting that as an initial bench mark is an important first step.  Measuring our steps from there towards defined objectives is then an equally important second step.  If we can’t measure our progress it’s very hard to know if we’re going in the right direction, or travelling fast enough.

There is a mood and momentum shift to be had in clearing away the doubt, publishing emissions figures then showing real intent and progress towards reducing them.

Equally we need to exercise caution that we do not proceed in a way or direction that causes greater harm than our current operation, either directly or through unintended consequences.  This will involve a change to way that we consider every aspect of our organisation’s activities, not least the operation of the entire supply chain.

Technology decisions must be assessed from an ethical and sustainability perspective across all aspects of resources, manufacturing, distribution, operation, longevity (including repair and upgrade), re-use and ultimately disposal.  We must also consider how it fits into new operational models and ways of working and whether the technology enables productivity and flexibility.

There is an understandable concern at an executive level that all of this becomes too emotional and “fluffy”, but in fact the hard economics are with us as well.  Whether it’s compliance with current and future legislation, market valuation or staff engagement,  measurable sustainability is rapidly becoming one of the key business metrics.

About the Author:

Speaker (2)Ewen Anderson is co-founder and CIO of Px3, a company which provides analytics and consultancy to help organisations improve their workplace sustainability.  Ewen has a background in management services, enterprise IT and executive leadership.  Over the last 20 years he has worked as a strategy consultant for many FTSE 100, SMBS, public sector and Not for Profit organisations.  He can be contacted at ewen@px3.org.uk


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