07.06.12 – Sustainability during tough times   Leave a comment

The prism of sustainability can help provide a roadmap to navigate through turbulent times.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the international financial press at the moment. It’s difficult to know if America is in recovery or not, if the European Union is about to go into meltdown, whether China has the steam to continue powering ahead, and what impact all of this is going to have on the confidence of Australians. We were relatively shielded from the GFC, but what happens if (when??) GFC version 2.0 hits us?

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – takes takes place in a few weeks.  Despite all the rhetoric preaching the opposite, don’t be surprised if the sustainable development agenda takes a backseat at a high level during these turbulent times as countries try to get themselves back into better economic shape. Government funding for good environmental and social initiatives may shrink and the purse strings of the business community – large, small and everyone in between – will probably tighten as company number crunchers focus on personal survival.

Without a doubt, volatility, challenge and change are the standard orders of the day. This is creating significant concern and risk for many businesses. But, as in anything in life, do you want to focus on the negatives or the positives? Times like these bring with it a window of opportunity to establish and strengthen business.

Companies who are able to take definitive action towards building value and resilience will be better placed to absorb the impacts of any slowdown. In order to survive, companies will need to be flexible and adaptable and invest, innovate and develop the appropriate skills base to meet the challenges.

The owners or leaders of companies, acting as the antennae of the organisation, need to act quickly and adapt. On the other hand, those that look for the easy options, or that stick their head in the sand, will stagnate or simply disappear, with all the job losses and social pain that entails.

Sustainability is rooted in the principles of authenticity, transparency, collaboration and engaging with employees and the wider community in order to develop a more resilient business. Embedding it into the core of business will help identify and eliminate waste and increase efficiencies. It can help stimulate innovation and foster competitiveness. It provides a point of differentiation. It can help define new products and services. It helps earn goodwill points with employees, customers and clients.

All these are essential to stay in the black when the going gets tough, so don’t give up on the sustainability journey!

Shane Gladigau

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