Here is an excerpt from an article written by Andrew Winston for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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I normally write about companies navigating their way toward sustainability, covering topics such as how to save money or drive green innovation. But I like to step back periodically and look at why companies need to go green. Besides the inherent business logic of creating value by getting leaner or innovating to solve customer problems, what are the forces propelling this movement? Understanding this explicitly can help companies think about solutions systematically.
I’ve developed a new tool to help myself, and I hope others, think about these forces in a way that helps drive strategy — and I’d like to get your feedback. The Sustainability Forces Wheel (see chart below) is an attempt to capture what I see as three big buckets of interrelated forces.
Along the outside run the big sustainability challenges we face as a species — these are the issues that society increasingly expects business to deal with and help find solutions for. They include climate, water, biodiversity, waste, and chemicals on the environmental side. On the social side, which could include a limitless list, I’ve boiled it down to the challenges of social equity, labor (both developing skills around the world and avoiding forced or child labor), and freedom (to associate, for example).
These issues affect companies directly of course, but importantly they also pass through a prism of magnifiers. These are the tectonic shifts in how the world works (think Thomas Friedman’s ideas in The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded.) I’m including here three biggies:
• Technology and the transparency it enables
• Resource constraints, driven in large part by the rise of the consumer around the world
• Globalization, which creates new forms of competition and forces companies to incorporate different cultures and mores into operations and strategy.
In the third wheel I’ve placed key stakeholders that pose questions about a company’s social and environmental performance. These people put a face on the larger forces and concerns. Of the long list of possible stakeholders, I highlight four here:
1. Governments at all levels and the regulations and pressure they apply
2. Business customers that are greening their supply chains
3. Employees who want more than a paycheck and expect to match their values to their employer’s
4. Consumers who want it all — sustainable products at the same price and quality
The way I picture using this framework is to “spin” the wheels and match up the forces. In this way, executives can think through what the combinations mean for an industry or company.
Follow Andrew on Twitter at @GreenAdvantage.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
Andrew Winston is the co-author of the best-seller Green to Gold and the author of Green Recovery. He advises some of the world’s biggest companies on environmental strategy.
Is this the pendulum going the other way? If so, it’s probably too early to tell what this means – but it may mean a lot. One thing it may mean – China is producing more of its goods for the people of…China.
While trade has rebounded from its lows, the volume is nowhere near its peak. In September, the combined total of U.S. imports and exports was 24 percent below the level of July 2008. Countries stung by the sudden drop-off in demand from foreign buyers have realized that they can no longer simply export their way to prosperity. China’s exports fell 23 percent between August 2008 and August 2009. Smart investors are channeling resources to companies that produce domestic goods for domestic markets.
And this “deglobalization” reminds us that though America may not be in decline, the rest of the world is rsing.
He ends his article this way:
In November, Ted Strickland, the governor of Ohio, one of the states hit hardest by globalization, showed up at a corporate campus in Milford, a suburb of Cincinnati, to celebrate the fact that Tata Consultancy Services, the Indian outsourcing giant, now employed 300 workers at its North America Domestic Delivery Center. The outsourcer has become an in-sourcer. Perhaps we’re not seeing deglobalization, but rather, reglobalization.
One of my favorite “to ponder” exercises is this one: “what if we fell asleep today and woke up 20 years from now?” We live in a time of such rapidly accelerating change that we can hardly imagine the change that is coming.
Try this – what will the year be in which we no longer get around with vehicles that have drivers? Too far fetched? Let’s make it simpler – what year will bring the arrival of transportation for most people that uses something other than oil? For such a change is coming! The real issue is not if, but when – and, how will we get there?
Thomas Friedman has already led us on similar journeys – in retrospect, and in process. My first exposure to Thomas Friedman was in 1999, when I read The Lexus and the Olive Tree. It was an announcement that globalization was upon us. His next volume (I read it in 2005) told us how flat the world was. And now, the world is just as flat, but it is also becoming increasingly hot and crowded. Since I haven’t read his new book yet, I don’t know what his prescription for change is. But I know this – change is coming. Real change.
I heard Mr. Friedman interviewed on 60 Minutes about this new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America. One sentence jumped out at me. He described how ludicrous it would have been to lead a pep rally for the IBM Selectic typewriter at the dawn of the personal computer age. You remember that typewriter, don’t you? Interchangeable fonts on those easily removable balls, ease of use – it was a marvel!
(By the way, there is now a Selectric Typewriter Museum).
Who today would switch back to it?
Not me, thank you. A new age is upon us. And now I have added to my keyboard that nifty tiny keyboard on an iPhone. Who would have predicted?
Mr. Friedman calls us to a new revolution – a green revolution. One that will help our planet. One that will help our people. One that will help our nation.
Even his critics admire his work ethic. He continues to travel, to observe, to ponder, to think, to write.
And most of all, he makes us think.
I hope we will listen…