This post is an interview with Adam Davis of Manidis Roberts. Adam consults in the field of Sustainability and Climate Change and has made a conscious effort from early on in his career to choose roles with the long term in mind.
The Author of Linchpin, Seth Godin, blogged last year about how the work we choose early on makes a big difference to what kind of career we end up with.
“Like bending a sapling a hundred years before the tree is fully grown and mature, the gigs you take early will almost certainly impact the way your career looks later on. If you want to build a law practice in the music industry, you'll need to take on musicians as clients, even if the early ones can't pay enough”.
Adam provides a very positive example of this theory in practice.
Q1 - Tell me a bit about your contribution to the field of sustainability?
I have over 14 years of industry experience both in the public and private sectors in sustainability, starting at Hornsby Shire Council where I was involved in implementing the largest local government Energy Performance Contract in Australia and an Australian first trigeneration system. Through this climate change work I was awarded the NSW State Government’s Work Energy Smart Champion Award, it also allowed me to participate in a sustainability study tour of Japan and the Philippines.
More recently in my role at Manidis Roberts (www.manidisroberts.com.au) my focus in climate change has been assessing the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, local communities and property developments to the impacts of climate change and providing strategic advice on approaches to adaptation.
Q2 - A bright guy like you could have worked in a heap of different industries. What shaped your decision to choose the career path that you did?
I originally set out to work purely in the environmental management field, undertaking environmental audits and environmental assessments. However, I soon discovered that a more holistic triple bottom line approach was needed for effective decision making in project delivery and corporate management. Coupled with sustainability I also satisfy my creative side through photography, where I run a business called Frangipani Blue (www.frangipaniblue.com.au).
Q3 - Where do you go to stay informed about your area of expertise?
Through these networks I can keep abreast of the latest sustainability initiatives being developed, it also allows the fostering of new ideas in this relatively new field.
Q4 - What project or organisation have you been involved in that you believe is an inspirational example to other sustainability practitioners?
My employer Manidis Roberts (www.manidisroberts.com.au) is a very inspirational place to work for, having just been ranked 8th in the BRW’s Best Place to Work 2010. This place actually walks the talk, being involved in sustainability since the Rio Earth Summit, writing ‘the book’ on the green Sydney Olympics, right through to our GM, MD and Chair of the Board riding their bikes to work each day.
The current system of quarterly electricity bills mean that if you accidentally leave the oven on for half an hour it could be up to ninety days until you get any indication of what that slip up cost you. At which point the difference in consumption from previous bills is likely to be lost in a stack of other variations relating to seasonal differences, holidays, visitors, new appliance purchases etc.
Simply recognising your electricity bill is high and wanting to do something about it falls short of the kind of instantaneous feedback that is required to address energy wasteage in most homes. The quicker you can receive feedback on your consumption the quicker you can modify your behaviour and save yourself some money. One way of doing this in the past could have been to walk outside to your meter box every 15 minutes or so and check the reading, do a simple calculation and then walk back inside to take action. Far from practical, I can't imagine too many people having that much spare time on their hands. So how would you achieve a tighter feedback loop?
A convenient solution
A few weeks back I was waiting for a windscreen to be repaired and decided to get a hot drink at a nearby cafe. As it turns out in a stroke of marketing genius the cafe does not rely solely on people's thirst for its business and has established other potential revenue streams. As I sat and enjoyed my drink I looked out into the remainder of the building which was actually a store specialising in sustainability-related products. From rain water tanks, grey water systems, solar panels, composting bins the list seemed endless. Prior to departing I thought I would just have a look around and stumbled upon the Efergy Wireless Electricity Monitor ( http://www.efergy.com/ - currently can't purchase from this site if in Australia). I had recently moved house and found my new electricity bill to be significantly higher than it had been previously so I did some quick return on investment calculations and decided to give it a try.
How it works
I am not an Electrical Engineer so I will save you the details about how induction and magnetic fields work but basically the device works by picking up signals produced at the supply to your electricity meter. These are then transmitted wirelessly to a display unit that you place in a handy spot in your house. The display unit also stores the information for analysis later on. This means that when you turn an appliance on you can see the impact to your consumption in real time. The display can be changed to show you either the rate of energy consumption (kW) or the cost per hour. Other views include daily, weekly and monthly averages. The system can also be supplied with software that then allows you to analyse your consumption and identify what behaviour changes to make to reduce your bills by shifting consumption to times of the day when tariffs are lower. You don't need a fancy device to start doing this though, just contact your electricity retailer about the different times of day and associated rates and you can start making savings today.
The manual is very clear about the fact that you require a qualified electrician to install this device. No responsibility taken by the manufacturer if you try to DIY.
The device is very good at encouraging you to make changes on the spot as the feedback is near instantaneous. The return on investment has the potential to be high, however, it is only early days for me so I can't skite about any significant savings to date. If you are interested in saving energy and want something that provides simple, immediate feedback on your current consumption habits this is the way to go.
Where do you get it?
The device can be purchased online ( eg. www.todae.com.au no affiliation) or at your local sustainability product reseller ( eg. The Greenhouse Emporium, 277 Canberra Ave, Fyshwick ).
A few years back a good friend of mine fell in love with the country of Norway. In so doing she worked out she would need a way to make a crust and subsequently offered here unparalleled research capability to the Norwegian multi-national, DNV (or Det Norske Veritas for those with a phobia of acronyms). The wikipedia one-liner on DNV is that they are a classification society organised as a foundation, with the objective of "Safeguarding life, property, and the environment".Basically this puts them in the business of managing risk.
As clever risk managers they worked out a smart way to address the risk of the developed world's unsustainable resource consumption and waste production. Realising the best place to start was internally they have been addressing this through changing the habits of their workforce. The following interview with Jorgen Kadal explains the journey to date as seen through the eyes of the person responsible for getting it off the ground.
Q1 - Please provide a brief outline of the program
Below I have enclosed the original brochure for the scheme. I think this describes it quite well.
Editor's note: the brochure has been uploaded here but an excerpt is below.
What is WE do?
WE do is a global environmental project that helps 8,000 people working in DNV limit their personal environmental footprint – which is estimated to be larger or at least comparable to the footprint from DNV’s operations. To achieve this, DNV will partially finance personal environmental measures. The upper limit is NOK 10,000 (a Norwegian Kroner is approximately AUD 0.192 or USD 0.179 at time of writing) per person, per year, regardless of location. NOK 40 million is set aside to finance the project.
Q2 - How long did it take from the initial idea to implement the program and what were some of the critical steps along the way?
The idea was conceived during the autumn/winter 2006/2007, and the program was implemented in the spring of 2008. (see also the interview in the DNV forum magavine uploaded here).
The idea was conceived by myself starting with my growing concern that new technology alone was not enough to reach the required targets for reduction of greenhouse gases, and my increasing disappointment with norwegian politicians who seemed not to be able to put practical measures into action. When DNV got a new CIO in early 2007, he set out to define new visions values and goals, and the synthesis of this was summed up in the statement ´Global impact for a safe and sustainable future´.
Upon reading thisI was inspired to think that perhaps my company could set an example that could inspire the world around us by showing that, through a small encouragement,DNV employees around the world would be willing to back the vision of the company by reducing their personal footprint. The next critical step for me personally was to build up the courage to approach him with this bold idea. His almost immediate response was, ´thank you, this was a great idea, we will do this´. From then on he took it and turned it into what is has become today.
A project manager was named, a project team set up and a WEdo committee consisting of one representative from each business area plus the human Resources/Safety, Health and Environment (HR/SHE) director and myself was established. The first hurdle was to get this through the board of directors. Then came the process of conducting a global brainstorming session using a discussion forum on the intranet, and then screening the ideas based on their similarities and occurrence. Then the most popular were suggested more or less in their original form, to all the country managers for their approval. The element of local adaption of the eligible measures were included and a final list as you find in the enclosedbrochure were distributed and a web application form was made available on the intranet. Parallel to this was an important discussion on how to administer the applications and the distribution of funding with the least possible disruption to business in the regions. This was resolved quite elegantly through using the ordinary regime for handling expense statements.
Then an initiative that was also mentioned in the original idea, to apply for tax exemption in Norway for this additional funding, was started. After a few rounds with the finance department, this was finally closed with a negative answer. This was a little disappointing, that an initiative that really showed that the private sector was highly motivated to support both Norwegian society and the global community at large, to reach the targets for reduction of greenhouse gases was seen as just another taxable benefit to the employees.
The final two critical steps where to get acceptance from the board of directors to carry on the programme over a full three year period. Acceptance for the second period was granted, and I am not sure whether acceptance for a third period has been given yet. Part of this process includes documenting the effect of the programme for the total reduction of greenhouse gases, for the satisfaction of the employees in terms of motivation to remain with the company, or be attracted to work there, and general strengthening of the brand.
Q3 - What is the % uptake by staff members and what is the cost to your organisation as a % of profit after tax?
In the initial brainstorming Over 500 ideas were posted, 50% of employees visited the discussion forum and 100% knew about it.
For the first round of applications in 2008, 50% of the employees (4100) people applied. The cost was about 5% of profit after tax.
Norway and China were the big doers, and there was a big geographical variation.
For the second round, 3139 people applied, and the cost ratio is expected to be slightly less as the profits are expected to be higher this year.
Q4 - What are some of the resources employed during the development of the program? A list of key resources that I have put together for my readers can be found here.
Initially footprint calculators on the internet were used to trigger people's awareness. They were linked up from the resource pages on the intranet, and people were generally encouraged to go and try them out. Thenduring the first year, the top management distributed the book ´The hot topic´ to all employees worldwide. This was a very good and objective account for all the main factors and issues affecting climate change and the challenges we are facing to limit the effects of these.
Q5 - What is the most inspirational employment of the program that you have seen to date?
I think the two most inspirational employments of the programme I have seen is environmentally friendly water heating for a school in china, as is described on page 41 of our annual report, and this year, to see how many people that were very far from even thinking about cycling to work, have really taken on this task and have cycled much more than the required miles to qualify for the funding and are set to keep doing this also in the future.
I am also very inspired by the way this programme has been used in the annual report to illustrate the commitment of the employees of DNV.
Q6 - What are some of the benefits of this program to your organisation?
One of the main benefits has been referred to as motivation of the employees (implicitly contributing to retention rates and attracting competent people). Many people report back that this programme makes them proud to work in DNV.
Another has been that of motivating employees to align with the vision and goals for DNV to have global impact for a sustainable future through the way they deliver and contribute to further develop our services.
And yet another has been to strengthen DNV's brand as we are trying to position ourselves in the many business opportunities that open as the world tries to tackle climate change issues.
Q7 - What advice do you have for organisations considering implementing similar programs?
It was definitely a success criteria to involve the whole organisation in the forming of the programme. This created a unique ownership among the employees and helped take down a lot of discussions that could well have strained the management organisation during implementation.
Another success criteria has been to make the administration of the programme as lean as possible so that it is not seen as another large overhead to the organisation.
Another piece of advice that we wish we had established earlier, is to implement measures and calculators for the organisation to measure the effect of the programme along the way. A lot of good energy and motivation (for example to choose to cycle to work) can be created from measuring achievements over time.
Finally, a strong foundation of committment from the top has been a key element to the success of our programme.
Thank you Jorgen for a wonderful insight into DNV's WE do program. Any readers who have experiences they would like to share about their own organisation's sustainability programs feel free to leave a comment.
This blog post is an interview with world renowned journalist and freelance writer, Leon Gettler. I first came across Leon’s work when I began reading the Melbourne-based newspaper, The Age, via the web. His blog Management Line appealed to me and over time I began to really enjoy his writing and the ideas he was exploring. This interview was conducted some weeks ago so I have paraphrased Leon where required as the notes I took at the time were far from thorough. New bloggers take note, find a way to record your interviews, it will significantly improve the time it takes you to get things up on your blog.
Q1 - Please provide a brief bio covering your background and what you currently do in the field of sustainability
I have been in journalism for many years, in fact decades. I am now 51 and started when I was 18-19 as a way to support myself through uni. About 12-13 years ago I began reporting on politics and industrial relations. Prior to this I had done smaller stuff such as police courts but my focus changed to be towards the world of business. This looked interesting so I carved a niche for myself in this field. I was very interested in corporate governance and how businesses are run. Prior to me taking this on no one was doing it before. I have since written a book on dysfunctional organisations. I was at The Age for many years and decided it was time to freelance. I had a good name and a good reputation. I was interested in lots of areas and had lots of points of contact. I figured if worst came to worst I could always go back to my old job. I now write for BRW, The Australian Financial Review, Australian Marketing Institute (AMI), HR Monthly, Ethical Corporation and G Magazine.
In terms of how I came to be working in the field of sustainability I probably began to become interested in climate change about 8 years ago. In fact, I am fascinated by it. When I began writing on this topic I was the only one doing it. I followed the topic very closely and began writing a lot about it. I really wanted to understand every facet of it as I find the many dimensions fascinating. It involves economics, environmental considerations, carbon trading and taxation, the whole business case around it is something I find very interesting. I have found it to be a fascinating field to watch. Most businesses are all for it as long as the cost of going carbon neutral is also cost neutral. The Australian Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) cannot be cost neutral. Users will pay more for electricity. I guess it is clear that we need behaviour changes but these don’t seem so likely at the moment.
An example of a big change that took a while and would have got nowhere if the government wasn’t serious is bans on smoking. This message has seeped through over time. Government changes were a necessary part of this process. Governments around Australia introduced anti-smoking legislation and now you can’t smoke in most public buildings. This changed people’s attitudes to smoking and over the long term it has had a considerable impact on the number of people who smoke.
Editor’s note. The same could be said for seatbelts in cars. We all look back and wonder why people needed a law to tell them to do something that is so obviously in their self-interest to do, however, cars were fitted with seat belts for many years before it became the law.
We need something similar to aid the cause of sustainability. For example, every building to go up must have sustainability principles applied throughout it’s planning, design and construction.
At the moment we are lacking direction from government. They seem to be reluctant to do anything that will hurt the punters. This is where the votes are. In terms of political stability, a carbon regime that is bi-partisan is the only model that can work. Tax laws can be changed by new governments but whatever we choose to do in terms of the CPRS needs to be able to withstand changes in government.
Q2 - What is your motivation for working in the field of sustainability?
The future of the world depends upon it. I find it a fascinating field because it captures everything, consumer patterns, the way companies are run, science, economics, it touches just about every area. It is such an interesting area to be reporting on. It is an area where no one knows the answers yet and there are some really interesting debates going on. Take for instance carbon trading. There is currently quite a bit of horse trading going on between airlines. Power stations prefer a carbon tax but how do you make a carbon tax global? Does it need to be to be effective? I love to follow these issues.
Q3 - What are the key resources you employ in the conduct of your work (an example of some that I have listed for readers is locatedhere)?
I have contacts, lots of contacts. So one of my key resources is the people I talk to. I also trawl furiously through news, constantly, there is no shortage of news out there about this stuff, you simply have to know what to look for. I have found that you need to be pretty disciplined in your search and not be distracted by other stuff. I try to focus on issues that are current, say carbon trading, and the issues surrounding it. For example, I hardly read anything about Carmichael Hunt.
Editor’s note. This interview was conducted the day after Carmichael Hunt, star performer in Australia’s National Rugby League, announced he was switching football codes to play Australian Rules Football for what will be a newly created club in the Australian Football League, the Gold Coast Football Club. As someone who played Aussie Rules for 11 years and coached for four I was disappointed with myself for not knowing about what Leon was talking about at the time. Moving from Victoria to New South Wales has put me in the dark when it comes to footy news so to a footy tragic like myself Carmichael Hunt’s decision IS news!
Q4 – Based on that backhander towards the traditional media, I would like to know whether or not you think it can be relied upon?
It has a role but is increasingly less relevant. I think people have a voracious appetite for news. I remember a recent article I read where Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, was interviewed by Spiegel. He says that he never picks up the San Francisco Chronicle, why would he when he has got far more up to date news through RSS and Twitter.
People like to talk about the affect that Generation Y are having on the workplace but when we look beyond that to Generation Z, those who are 14-15 years old now, they don’t even read papers. If they really want the news they go to the TV or internet. This will really reshape the way the media operates. People like news but they don’t want to pay for it. Banner ads are very unpopular. Put simply, the internet is killing advertising as we know it.
Traditional media will have to rethink the way they go about advertising. Do you provide at a cost what someone else can provide for free?
Take a hypothetical situation, we will provide news and information but if you really need to know more about this topic you can subscribe here for premium content eg. Information regarding the CPRS that is highly tailored for your business needs.
I recently read a fascinating piece in The Times. It related to a 15 year old boy who was doing work experience at JP morgan. They asked him to do a study on how teens treat traditional media sources. He was quoted as saying that “email is what we use if we need to speak with old people”. One of his other findings is that Facebook is ok but they don’t use a lot of that. They don’t pay for newspapers and don’t pay for music.
I’ve noticed that there is a real hunger for communication and I think that this explains the amazing growth of social networking. As a result of this hunger for information there are marginal fringe newsletters appearing everywhere.
Back in the day when the mainstream weren’t mobile and there was no internet there were fewer choices. Put simply, the business model will have to change to accommodate the proliferation of choice.
Q5 - What are some examples of work you have been involved in that you think may be inspirational to other sustainability practitioners?
At the moment I have been working on this plan for a year, it is hard, and there have been lots of false starts. However, I am keeping on going. I have registered a domain for a magazine that will be focussing on climate change and the business case around it. At the moment the bulk of the material will relate to renewable energy sources. I have a dummy site setup that I am using to get corporate backing. The delivery model that I am working on is one that will aim to get it backed by through corporate investment. It is a model that could work, however, there have been no shortage of hurdles. I have been approaching organisations that are meant to be backing sustainability ventures, however, if it doesn’t have government funding they are not willing to support it. So it is not up and running yet as every time I go into partnership with people and advise them that I can’t see us making money for three years the conversation stops. I am not doing it for the money so that isn’t a great hurdle to me. However, as I have been negotiating with entrepreneurs they often want control of the idea beyond what I am willing to offer. As I said to start with, there have been plenty of false starts, but I will persist.
Human endeavour is an inspirational thing. I recently interviewed a very brave guy who struck out on his own to start a business that closely aligned with his value set. A few years down the track that one man show has expanded considerably both in employee numbers, client base and positive impact.
This blog post is the first in what will become a regular feature on this site and profiles the achievements of Terence Jeyaretnam, founder of Net Balance Management Group. If you are wondering how I found out about Terence then you probably haven't read the Engineers Australia magazine in a while. As an engineer and a member of the Society of Sustainability and Environmental Engineering (SSEE) I have been reading Terence's articles on sustainability for about five years now, in fact, it is pretty much all I read in that mag. This is not a comment on the quality of the magazine, simply an indication of my priorities when it comes to reading the rest of it. The following is an excerpt from theNet Balancewebsite:
Welcome to Net Balance
Net Balance is a different kind of company.
The Net Balance team is made up of energetic, passionate individuals who see sustainability as core business, presenting exciting opportunities for innovation, industry leadership, risk management, and cost reduction. That’s why Net Balance has become one of the leading providers of sustainability advice and assurance in Australia.
I asked Terence a number of questions to find out what inspired his work to create this company and what he thinks can inspire other sustainability practitioners.
Q1 - Why did you decide to launch Net Balance?
Because the company I was with at the time, URS, decided to step away globally from providing assurance to sustainability reports due to litigation fears. This was, and has been, my area of passion for the past 15 years, and I needed an entity to house my interests. Besides, it presented an opportunity for a unique experiment in setting up a company – one that measures, offsets and reports its sustainability performance, has a strong focus on non-profit work and is based on a strong set of values. The experiment has been a phenomenal success so far, proving that there is indeed much room for sustainable business models.
Q2 - What are the key resources you employ in the conduct of your work (an example of some that I have listed for readers is locatedhere)?
Editor’s note: As a time management guru, Terence typed up his reply to my questions while in the air between Sydney and Melbourne so he lacked the capacity to check the list of resources I provided in a recent post.
Jud, again, as I’m in the middle of the air, I can’t see your list, but my key resource (and to an extent the only resource) is my brain. I find that one of the fundamental issues (even with sustainability) is that we do not use our brains as much as we could. Lazy brains lead to lazy people and a lazy planet – I’m not saying that my brain is not lazy – it is, and it does try very hard to coast, but I keep challenging the possibilities!
Editor’s note: Wow. Insights like this are exactly why I started this blog. That was not what I was getting at with my question but it provides a great wake up call. What is your first point of call when you have a hard decision to make or a complex problem to solve? Do you make a conscious effort to extend yourself and make the most of your own mind? Consider the sheer volume of information you can access. It quickly becomes clear that it is your discerning mind that will actually make sense of it all and turn it into a useful resource. Thanks Terence, excellent point.
Q3 - What inspires you to work in the field of sustainability?
The possibility that we may leave this planet to our kids just the way we found it. When I was a child (which by the way was not that long ago!), there was very little waste, very little pollution and much more time in the day. I would like to give the place back the way I found it – and the reason my work continues to get me out of bed very early every morning is that it has the potential to change large institutions and create much more change than I could ever achieve on my own.
Q4 - What are some examples of work you have been involved in that you think may be inspirational to other sustainability practitioners?
Two things. Most companies that I have worked with have improved their performance each year and have gone from strength to strength. This makes me proud. Secondly, I’m proud of what Net Balance has done as a company – ticked most boxes in a sustainability journey from day one. Hopefully, it will inspire other sustainability and engineering companies to practice what they believe is good for business and reap the rewards.
The next sustainability practitioner to be profiled will be freelance writer Leon Gettler of Fairfax, G Magazine and Sox First fame. Do you have anyone you would recommend I try to profile on this blog? If so please feel free to add a comment below.
Inaction is a terrible thing. Reasons for inaction abound and at the end of the day one can always look back and say 'well we could have moved a bit quicker on this or that'. One common reason for inaction is cost. We see a potential change we would like to make and we think that we can't afford it. Long term return on investment calculations take time and tire our brains so we simply avoid the cost. This single factor is a massive barrier to the kind of changes that need to be made in order to wind up a lot of unsustainable practices. The following are some examples of what exists in a lot of homes today:
- archaic hot water systems; - no or ineffective insulation; - short eaves leading to negligible summer shading; - single glazed windows; - low voltage (but high consumption) downlights; and - plumbing systems and stormwater systems that let a lot of good water simply run away from your property.
The choice to let these practices continue is a result in some cases of people not being aware of the alternative but in many cases simply being averse to the expenditure. In Australia the time has come to try and reverse a bit of that. In their first budget announcement back in 2008 the Federal Government allocated funds to a Green Loans program. The steps are as follows:
1. Register. Home owners register for the service by calling 1800 895 076 or visiting environment.gov.au/greenloans (I recommend calling for a more speedy result); 2. Assessment. A Home Sustainability Assessment is conducted by an accredited assessor who makes recommendations on what needs to be done to improve the sustainability of your home in terms of energy and water consumption; 3. Obtain Finance. You apply for a $10,000.00 four year interest free loan through one of the nominated financial institutions; and 4. Reap The Benefits. You spend the money on the necessary home improvements and pay the loan off over four years interest free.
Bargain. Based on a personal loan rate of 13.40% this is a saving of $2,972.70 over the four years or approximately $62.00 per month. The really cool thing about this is that it can be used in conjunction with other rebate schemes. Whether you feel like spending the money or not I strongly recommend booking in for the Home Sustainability Assessment as it will help you with future planning regarding repairs and renovations. There is nothing like the view of an independent professional to help shed some light on the options available.
But Jud, what if I don't own my own home?
Then get yapping and pass this onto people you know who do.
But Jud, what if I don't live in Australia?
Then alert your member of parliment to what is a great example of a Governement taking the initiative.
I don't want to spend $10,000.00, I have other financial committments, what is the value of this to me?
Although you may not feel like spending it now if you make the assessor aware of your situation they can identify relatively cheap or heavily subsidised options that can save you money in the long term, potentially make your home more comfortable and reduce the impact your lifestyle has on our precious resources.
Have you had a Home Sustainability Assessment done? What was it like and what were the recommendations? Have you implemented them?
More to come in future posts as Rebate Hound continues snooping. In the meantime pickup the phone if you haven't already.
Sustainability practitioners the world over have come to be doing what they are doing as a result of some inspirational individual or reference along the way. This post aims to provide a starting point for you in your journey to drive organisational change for social, economic and environmental sustainability. This list includes books, movies, individuals, websites and organisations. Sustainability is a diverse field and it is important to be able to see the connections between different elements so that you can focus energy at points of high leverage.
1. The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken. I first found out about this book via a movie called 'The Corporation'. While I enjoyed the movie the interview with Ray Anderson of Interface stands out. In this interview he talks about the 'spear through the chest' that the book was for him and the transformational journey that his company went through as a result of the call to action this book represented to him. This book is a serious eye-opener and provides excellent reasons as to why we need to take action sooner rather than later. It also focuses heavily on the fact that it is the world of commerce that can drive the positive changes required.
2. An Inconvenient Truth - Documentary featuring Al Gore. This is an important film because back in 2006 it got mainstream attention focussed upon a topic which although widely known about had been pretty conveniently ignored for a long time. Since then we have seen political parties in Australia and the US elected whose campaigns have included reformist agendas in relation to climate change. If you haven't seen it get down to the library and grab a copy quick smart. Other noteworthy films that were released around the same time are Jake Gyllenhaal’s apocalyptic science fiction film The Day After Tomorrow and Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary The 11th Hour.
3. The Natural Step - not-for-profit organisation. Established in Sweden by Dr Karl-Henrik Robert in the late 1980’s - early 1990’s this organisation has educated many people across the globe in the key elements of sustainability. Based on a practical scientific approach The Natural Step centres on these four basic principles (best understood if read from top to bottom with the left hand column first):
Editor's note. Please excuse the formatting as the ability to add a table in an easily readable format currently eludes this blogger. Tips welcome in the comments. You can also click onthe table to be taken to the website.
These considerations are widely applicable and are a very useful resource to sustainability practitioners in all organisations.
4 Networks including those supported by social media. Being a trailblazer is fun but eventually you are going to want followers. Building a small army of like-minded people behind you will help you drive organisational change as you support one another over the obstacles that come up along the way. An excellent way to stay in touch with and recruit people to support your change programs is by exercising and expanding your network. Social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter allow people to maintain contact with and exchange information with much larger groups than if they relied upon telephone and face to face meetings. This kind of interaction is still important though as someone who interacts solely online may quickly lose touch with the reality of any situation that they are trying to be a part of.
5 NGOs and Charities - Greenpeace, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Kiva, Engineers Without Borders etc. Charities are at the coal face in terms of the inequity and destruction brought about by decades of unsustainable practices. This puts them in an excellent position to advise on the impacts of unsustainable activity and when possible the solutions that they have identified. These organisations are fantastic sources of information but more importantly inspiration. Rather than throw their hands in the air and consider the weight of the situation to be too immense they have taken on the challenge and are striving for a solution.
6 The Green Pages - Online business directory. Five years ago it would have been a challenge to get an idea such as this off the ground. Now 'green' products are widespread and it is difficult to imagine many products that haven't had a 'green' alternative proposed. However, when it comes time to spend or simply do your research online directories such as these are an excellent resource. The rise of services like these has improved the choice available to consumers and broken down barriers to the widespread implementation of these products.
7 The Country of Sweden. Necessity is a wonderful thing. Sweden lacks significant coal and oil resources and subsequently is a great place to look for ways around this dependency. Potentially one of the most progressive nations when it comes to sustainability, Sweden have been taking significant steps towards reducing fossil fuel dependency for decades and continue to be at the forefront of legislative reform and application of new technologies. All of this has happened while maintaining a high standard of living and continuing to compete in a global market.
8 Government agencies. With no requirement to make a profit, and from time to time an acceptance of running at a deficit, Government agencies represent an excellent resource to sustainability practitioners worldwide. Government agencies are interested in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as it saves them the effort of having to find ways to supply them. In addition to this, the infrastructure requirements and air quality issues associated with more cars on the road are key factors in Government agencies seeking sustainable transport solutions. Government websites are great sources of impartial information as you can expect that there is not a product that they are trying to sell you. Examples include the Victorian Government's Sustainability Victoria website and the Federal Government's Your Home Technical Manual which has plenty of advice on how to improve the sustainability of your living space.
9 The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). After the Exxon-Valdez environmental disaster in 1989 a group of US investors and environmentalists came together to form the non-profit Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES - pronounced "series"). In 1997-1998 they raised a "Global Reporting Initiative" project division that selected staff, identified funding and began developing a network. Shortly after this the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joined as a partner and provided a platform for the GRI. Over the years engagement with organisations around the world has continued to grow to the point where at last count there were 507 organisational stakeholders from 55 different countries. Many of the world’s largest companies utilise the GRI reporting tools for their sustainability reporting. This has assisted with the development of a common language in regards to measuring sustainability performance of organisations around the globe.
This list is by no means exhaustive and depending on what field of sustainability you focus on your key resources may vary considerably. In future posts I will aim to focus on specific areas and continue to expand the resources section of this website. Until next time, best wishes and keep up the good work in your part of the world.
I am keen to learn what inspires you and share it with other readers. What would be your # 10 key resource or inspiration? Feel free to add more in the comments below.
After an epiphany over the weekend I have finally decided upon what this site and blog are going to be all about. The aim of this site will be to provide inspirational examples of organisational change for social, economic and environmental sustainability. Negative news stories in this space are plentiful, I will offer an alternative. This blog will be filled with examples that you can use to drive change in your organisation.
There is plenty of advice around about finding a niche and specialising so that you can stand out. But what if your speciality is as a generalist? What if you are a person people turn to for advice on a wide range of topics? What if the only common thread you can see between the things on your plate is that you are responsible for them?
The nature of work these days requires people to learn, unlearn and relearn so quickly that the generalist is in a niche of their own. I would consider the following as examples of roles where being a generalist is advantageous:
Project Manager. Every project is unique!
Researcher. If research didn’t require the bringing together of a number of skills and fields of practice then they would just ask a specialist and not waste time with a researcher.
Consultant. As a consultant you will be asked to advise on a broad range of topics. When it is outside of your field of knowledge you need to at least find out enough to work out who can help and what should be their brief.
Manager. In the work required to operate an organisation you will be regularly called upon to make decisions about things that are new to you. If you weren’t then there would be a simple manual or FAQ list that everyone would be referred to. Appreciating the broader context of your decisions is essential to many of the decisions you will make.
The common thread across this short list of roles is the requirement for transferable skills. A transferable skill is one that can be used in a range of different scenarios. Examples include listening, analysis, planning, presenting and writing. This list is by no means exhaustive.
Considering yourself to be a generalist has its limitations though. At times there will a perception that specialised input is required because the challenge to be tackled is too complex. But once the specialist is finished with their work this will need to be interpreted into everyday speak for the people left to carry on in their wake. Who is best placed to perform this vital role? I would consider that the generalist is in an excellent position to do so.
Generalist sub-topics that I will cover in future posts include the following:
- Skills analysis. How to do it and what most generalists can expect to find
- Resume writing for the generalist
- Communication for the generalist
- When does a generalist need to display a speciality?
- When does a specialist need to display their capacity to generalise?
Anyone with a stationery fetish has seen one of these before. It is the Fisher Space Pen. Apparently used by astronauts to take notes while in outer space. It writes on just about anything and costs between $20.00 and $40.00 depending on the model you choose. This is about 20 times more expensive than a pack of five biros.
As an engineer I am regularly faced with the challenge of defining how much effort needs to go into an element of a project. When NASA decided to start using the pen developed by Paul Fisher of the Fisher Pen Company it was not because they had spare cash lying around and wanted to show off or had a tiff with their standard supplier. It is because they worked out the consequences of a dud pen or pencil in orbit and decided it was not a risk they could tolerate. What you need depends a lot on what you do.
Sitting at my desk pen failure results in a binned biro and a gentle roll over to the cupboard where I get the next one out and keep going. In space pen failure could equal mission failure. If an astronaut needs to make a note, mark a point or do some quick hand calculations you can bet that they need that tool to work to provide a quick solutionto whatever instigated the need. Having to scramble around inside the space craft for the next pen may result in wasted time they can’t afford. Subsequently the consequences of failure justify the very high level of reliability.
In our every day purchasing or design decisions we have to make sure we know what this thing is going to be used for before we commit. The accuracy of this assessment is the key to finding the sweet spot between money well spent on high reliability and a false economy from a poor understanding of the end user. Spending time finding out the end user’s needs has a similar level of importance to design that reconnaissance does to planning military operations. As all good military leaders know, time in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. The designer’s equivalent would be that time in testing is certainly time well spent.
What allowances have been made for testing on your current project/s?