(Originally published in the April 2012 issue of the Nova Scotia Business Journal - "Going Green" special advertising feature)
Making change sustainable
By Ray Côté — a senior research fellow with the Eco-Efficiency Centre and professor emeritus with the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University
Unilever, one of the world’s largest and most prosperous consumer products corporations, has learned a thing or two about marketing over the years. Recently, it released what amounts to a manifesto called “Inspiring Sustainable Living.” Many organizations, both public and private grapple with addressing the environmental, social and economic challenges which face us. Becoming truly sustainable, an exceedingly over-used term, requires that decision-makers tackle these challenges in a coordinated, if not integrated fashion.
Unilever recognizes that its future is linked directly to a healthy planet. The company realizes that harvesting resources, producing products, transporting products and selling products is going to become increasingly difficult if the planet’s ecological services are compromised. That will require consumers, taxpayers, business and governments to change their behaviour. And, Unilever has learned a few things over the many years it has existed about promoting behavioural change.
Their “manifesto” describes five levers for change. These could be adopted by many elements of our Nova Scotia society as we attempt to reach sustainable prosperity:
1) To raise awareness and make the current behaviour and its ramifications understood.
2) To make the change in behaviour easy and convenient, as much as is possible.
3) To make the new behaviour more desirable and fit with the aspiration of the customer.
4) To make the change in behaviour rewarding for the customer through financial savings and other rewards.
5) To make sure that the new behaviour becomes a habit.
Behaviour has to be reinforced regularly through reminders of various kinds. Some of this is already happening, especially in the case of the “R”s and we are beginning to see it in the case of energy efficiency. We will continue to need to have our responsible behaviours reinforced and reminded if this province is to reach the goals and targets set for itself.
How your company can create a culture of sustainable prosperity:
• Host speakers at lunch and learn sessions to teach staff about easy behavioural changes that can help your company save energy, conserve water, and reduce solid waste.
• Discuss operating costs with staff on a regular basis. Emphasize projected operating costs over the next year with and without conservation efforts to promote change.
• Research and promote industry success stories with your employees. Discuss how the opportunities identified by other companies could work for your company.
• Conduct a walkthrough of your company with a multifaceted team of company employees. Draft a list of low to no-cost energy efficiency, water conservation, chemical reduction, solid waste management and employee engagement opportunities.
• Ask employees for ongoing feedback to achieve continuous efficiency improvements in your operations. Evaluate all suggestions against your company’s economic, environmental, and social targets.