Attending a conference about sustainable business, it quickly became apparent that the approach of this conference (and the attendees) was very much about environmental sustainability, how important it was and the fact that business just has to come on-board. The message of the conference was, this is how bad the problem is, now you go and adjust what you are doing so it gets fixed.
Firstly I thought it was a waste of the first half day explaining to the audience that environmental sustainability was an issue. Being members of a sustainable business group and attending a conference on that topic would sure indicate some awareness and buy-in already.
Secondly, their approach seemed to forget that they are a business group not an environmental group. A group of businesses concerned about sustainability not a group of environmentalists interested in business. This is a fundamental difference and one that I believe is holding back widespread innovation and action by businesses.
Most people want to do what is right for both the environment and their communities. If they could achieve their outcomes without causing damage to the wider eco-system, then they would probably at least look at it. What they don’t want to be told is that they’re the problem and it’s up to them to fix because they’re the bad guys here.
The message really needs to be more positive than that. We need to do better for our environment and communities and we need businesses help because they can make an awesome difference. How can we work together to make this happen?
The systems, resources, people, planning and ‘smarts’ of business can be a massive part of the solution, they’re not the enemy and being told by outsiders what to do isn’t the way to tap into all the positives they can bring.
The actions of business to these big issues need to be driven by business people, using business techniques in a way that isn’t detrimental to what business is trying to achieve.
Coming back to the conference, I was looking forward to listening to business people discussing what they have done and advice as to how businesses can look at their operations with a view to promoting positive changes.
If we take the approach that we all want the same outcomes, then we can use each other’s strengths to get the job done. Business is a great resource but it is business and changes need to come from a business perspective.