We have all got to come to terms with how we impact our surroundings and the environment in general. We know that we cannot maintain a status quo position and must think of future generations ahead of us as we strive to reduce our overall footprint and become more aware. Likewise, the organizations that produce products and service for our use must also learn to comply and understand that whatever their size they must understand and implement a process of sustainable operations if they are to be allowed to conduct business at all in the future.
What is the definition of "sustainable operations?" Generally this refers to the ability to "endure" and is particularly applicable to environmental issues. Over the past couple of hundred years we have paid very little regard to this notion and we can now see the damage that we have, consequently, got to live with. In future, we will be required to be as self-sufficient as possible and not to place demands on natural resources regardless of the repercussions.
A business these days must fully adopt the concept of sustainable operations and the driving force to ensure that this happens must come from the top. This is not a concept that can be delegated to a division or a department. Nor can it be referred to as a public relations exercise. There will be significant repercussions for the enterprise that does not understand its moral obligations.
Around the world, it is estimated that 80% of the largest organizations already fully understand and control sustainable operations within. However, by far the majority of businesses are only waking up to various possibilities and there is considerable progress to be made.
As some organizations panic when they realize that they are not maintaining sustainable operations, they rush to try and analyze the position and promote the fact that they are doing so. Without a full understanding of the footprint in relation to their energy use, carbon emissions, water management and waste disposal then any statements they make in due course will be accused of "greenwashing," or mistaking their position.
It takes a full lifecycle analysis of an organization before a true position can be revealed. Every element of the business is responsible in one way or another for its impact on its surroundings and a full interpretation will be necessary before any realistic action may be taken.
When it comes to carbon emissions - the single most significant problem ahead for every organization - senior management must ensure that their direct carbon emissions are fully analyzed and reported. These "scope one" and "scope two" emissions refer to the production and subsequent use of energy, but they must also reveal "scope three" emissions related to the supply chain, subsequent product use and disposal.
As a program of sustainable operations is implemented, the organization will find that it will ultimately benefit as it understands the efficiency of each one of its assets. It is to be expected that a finer return on investment will be enjoyed from these assets as they are analyzed and brought up to speed.