Posts Tagged ‘General Electric


Barriers to Sustainability

Fairleigh Dickinson University

sustainable pyramidThe American Management Association (AMA) report, Creating a Sustainable Future: A Global Study of Current Trends and Possibilities, 2007–2017, lists several barriers to sustainable business. It cites such examples as an anti-environmentalism movement, challenges to global warming research, affordability, unawareness of what sustainability is, skepticism among leaders, difficulty in measuring goals and short-term thinking by corporate executives.

Another barrier to sustainability is the notion that such initiatives are an expensive gamble on the corporation’s part. “Managers who are trained to believe that profit is the prime directive of business may find it hard to believe the financial bottom line can improve through social- and environmental-responsibility efforts,” states the report.

Another source of resistance is confusion over what constitutes a sustainable business. According to the AMA study, “Some executives confuse sustainability with one of its parts — corporate social responsibility — and assume their organizations are already up to par because they have done good things for their communities.”

One very strong deterrent to implementing sustainable business practices is the difficulty in measuring sustainability outcomes. This is where organizations like Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE) and the AMA become crucial to the future of business and society.

“Education can bring much-needed awareness to corporate sustainability and different ways to measure it,” says Joel Harmon, ISE director of research. For instance, the ISE has developed the Sustainability Pyramid, which details qualities associated with highly successful sustainability strategies (see Figure 1).

Midway as one moves up the pyramid are metrics or the measurement of sustainability efforts. These may include: environmental efficiency, measured through energy audits; carbon footprint analysis; global reporting initiatives undertaken; community/corporate citizenship, commonly known as corporate social responsibility; a corporate atmosphere that is strong on ethics; and a diverse employee population.

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