I was going to write a post on waste, recycling and the various conflicts and pitfalls. Then I realised... there probably isn't enough time in the day (or week) to read a blog that summerises the challenges businesses have around waste. So I'm going to write a series of posts focused on small business, communities and the public, and break it down into bitesize chunks.
So here's post 1 in an attempt to break down an incredibly complex subject for people.
Sustainability is a very complex subject, with a mix of competing priorities. There are a couple of rules that I stick to and anyone who I've worked with will know these messages.
1) There are no right answers in sustainability, only credible answers.
2) Beware the single issue activist
Its a controversial place to start saying there are no right answers, but in truth, sustainability is a heady mix of science (yay) and subjectivity (boo).
To clarify this statement humans as the predominant cause of climate change is real, is supported by science, evidence and a growing body of evidence. Anyone who thinks anything else is operating completely at odds with science, global politics and not in the best interests of future generations.
Subjectivity is much more complex and is the cornerstone of risk and risk management. It is based on peoples perception, which in turn is based on experience, knowledge, training, goals, ambitions... well you get the picture.
No Right Answers
Coming back to Rule #1 "there are no right answers". What I mean is, what is important to one person or organisation, may not be as important to another. As a business you really have to decide what are your priorities and balance them up. Here's a basic example of thinking about global risks and how they interrelate to other issues. Therefore demonstrating that although your focus might be seen to be on one, more worthy, area it likely closely interrelates to other wider, or business specific, issues.
Single Issue Activists
Another rule, "Beware single issue activists". Remember whilst you are busy solving one issue that is currently a hot topic you may be neglecting another. This brings us straight into creating a credible message.
Organisations and individuals cannot fix everything. Hopefully you / they are working to a better position, however what you can do is identify those issues that have the widest negative (Or positive) effect, decide what you can do something about and focus on that (remember science and subjectivity). Remember your solutions should base on science and good practice. I will create a new post on this in Waste, Part 2: Credibility: Ocean Plastic
Here's a basic actions plan:
1) Identify the sustainability issues that are important to you
2) Give consideration to how any issues relate to each other
3) Decide your top actions (2 or 3) you want to manage
4) Document why you have / have not chosen to manage that issue; examples:
- Fuel use: We use lots of fuel in our vehicles so we're going to manage this
- Plastic Waste: We don't use a lot of plastic packaging (5% of all our packaging by weight)
- Certified International Supplier: Having a certified supplier is important to us
- Local Uncertified Supplier: Supporting local jobs and reducing travel is our priority