The world is changing. Sustainability is quickly becoming a major topic among stakeholders, and it’s up to organizations to create and implement practices that satisfy the needs of the future.
In 2021, Chris Raymond shared his experience as the first Chief Sustainability Officer for Boeing at the North American Sustainability & Responsibility Summit. Boeing connects the world through aviation – but its industry can also be attributed to 3% of global carbon emissions. In his position, Raymond oversees the company’s approach on sustainable development and ESG priorities.
As the world continues to grow and shift, industries have to find ways to progress more sustainably while preserving and improving the existing social benefits.
Implementing sustainable development goals can seem intimidating – but it can be as simple as earning your stakeholders’ trust by acting proactively, or risking that trust by failing to act at all.
Sustainable practices start at the heart of your organization – in your values and your employees. At Boeing, the organizational values reflect how the company expects to operate and act, including being accountable, rewarding stability, leading on safety, quality, integrity, and sustainability, and respect amongst a globally diverse team. While only one value actually mentions sustainability by name, foundations for the principle can be found throughout the company.
For example, to be accountable, organizations must communicate openly with stakeholders – and this includes sustainability practices. Requiring accountability for your organization’s sustainability processes will ensure action is being taken and new measures are being tested and put in place.
It’s likely that the values of your organization have already laid the foundation for including sustainability. Before creating or updating your goals, review your values and how sustainability fits into your organization as a whole.
Creating sustainable development goals
Each organization will have different needs when it comes to sustainability, and therefore different goals. These should be both short- and long-term, and should align with other organizational goals.
Boeing’s organizational goals include employee safety, community engagement, and stakeholder priorities – but, they also have goals for creating sustainable operations throughout the lifecycle of their products and the innovation of clean technology.
Continually investing in new sustainable technology or processes will likely be an important goal for most organizations. In order to take proactive steps and position yourself as a sustainable brand, effort must be taken each day to find ways to make your products or services more efficient and less wasteful. This can be as simple as every day changes, or as complex as developing new technology.
Tackling the sustainability challenge
There are many challenges associated with committing your organization to sustainability. These changes are often easier said than done and require thorough vetting processes before it’s possible to implement them.
The four main challenges, according to Raymond, are technological feasibility, safe certification, current infrastructure, and economics. While these challenges are tailored to the needs and processes of Boeing, they can be broadly applied to many industries.
When developing new processes, one of the first hurdles is ensuring the change is technologically feasible for your organization. If the change can’t be maintained in a realistic manner, then it shouldn’t be invested in.
Arguably the most important step when developing your organization’s sustainability measures is ensuring that it is safe. The safety of your employees and customers should always come first, and it should always be at the forefront when developing new processes.
Current infrastructure within your organization should be able to handle new or improved processes, or the investment required for new infrastructure needs to be viable for your organization. For example, can the new process be applied to your current product model, or will you need to overhaul the existing process? Is the cost associated with this possible for your organization?
This leads to the final challenge as explained by Raymond: the economic equation that will allow your new solution to be implemented. Sustainability measures can only be effective if they are properly executed – which often requires a financial investment. Solving this equation is the final piece of the puzzle before plans can be put into action.
Act now, or miss out later
Sustainability is the way of the future. Organizations can either act proactively, and begin developing and implementing new processes now, or they can fall behind and lose the trust of stakeholders. There may come a time where sustainable practices are a requirement, and organizations that already have plans and processes set in motion will have the upper hand.
Do the work now and help shape the future of your industry.
Colleen joined the Executive Platforms team in May of 2022. She has three years of experience in event marketing, with an emphasis on copywriting and digital strategies.
Colleen has a BA Honours in Business Communications from Brock University and a Diploma in Digital Media Marketing from George Brown College.