In the decade or so that I have been involved in the sustainability movement, I have seen it evolve around a lot of the “whats” (a term I first learned from my dear friend Holly Harlan, founder of E4S) – buildings, energy efficiency, transportation, renewable energy, food— all of which are means to create sustainability. What isn’t discussed as much is the “how” of creating sustainable outcomes. The “what” isn’t really as important as the “how” is it? How do we create the person, relationship, community, company, or world that we desire? Well, the answer really is by shaping the system or organization in a way that achieves our desired results.
My old boss, Mayor Frank Jackson of the City of Cleveland, once said – “the best plan is the one that you do.” By this statement, he meant that an idea or a plan isn’t much unless it is put into practice and achieved. It was this realization during my own journey that led me to get a Master’s degree in Positive Organizational Development from the Weatherhead School of Management at CWRU. It doesn’t matter if you have a good idea if no one implements it. I came to this conclusion after beating my head against the wall due to several failed attempts to implement sustainability initiatives. I finally was successful by focusing on initiatives that I was empowered to implement on my own or could convince the person with authority to implement. I realized from this experience that I needed to become a better salesman and leader in helping individuals and organizations recognize their own desired outcomes while simultaneously educating them that the sustainable outcome is the desired outcome.
My experiences reinforce the importance of organizational development as a means of achieving sustainable results. By creating systems where individuals are empowered to implement their ideas and contribute to a common vision, we will see an acceleration of sustainability progress. One example can be seen in an effort to reshape the Cleveland community with Sustainable Cleveland 2019 (SC2019). Rather than starting with a set of goals or a plan, SC2019 began with a positive vision of the future, asking stakeholders to dream, design and deploy that vision. SC2019 has created a space for many initiatives to succeed or fail on their own validity instead of a space that is pre-programmed and pre-determined with leaders already clearly defined. The experiment is all-inclusive, with a broad group of stakeholders that have the ability to both envision and implement desired outcomes. Bike Cleveland, Tunnel Vision Hoops and Grow Ohio are all examples of stakeholder efforts. Cleveland City Hall and the corporate community have made incredible progress around a broad spectrum of mutually complimentary initiatives. SC2019’s out of the box approach has the capacity of achieving extraordinary results.
I am happy to see an increased awareness of the importance of organizational development as a means of achieving sustainability. Articles like the one published in Environmental Leader and other ideas being discussed amongst sustainability thought leaders within both the consulting and business communities are raising this important point. Without adopting organizational development approaches, sustainability will not move beyond the sustainability stars like the late Ray Anderson of Interface Carpet. In a recent article in GreenBiz, Joel Makower asked, why are there not more Ray Andersons? My answer is that there will only be more Rays when we engage and empower people to be the CEO in whatever they are able to influence in order to shape a more sustainable world.
Statement from the most senior decision-maker of the organization about relevance of sustainability to the organization and the organization’s strategy for addressing sustainability
Name of the organization
Primary brands, products, and services
Location of organization’s headquarters
Number of countries where the organization operates, and names of countries with significant operations or that are specifically relevant to the sustainability topics covered in the report
Nature of ownership and legal form
Scale of the reporting organization
Total workforce by employment type, employment contract, and region, broken down by gender
Percentage of total employees covered by collective bargaining agreements
Description of the organization’s supply chain
Significant changes during the reporting period regarding organization's size, structure, ownership, or supply chain
Whether and how the precautionary approach or principle is addressed by the organization
Externally developed economic, environmental, and social charters, principles, or other initiatives to which the organization subscribes or endorses
Memberships in associations and/or national/international advocacy organizations
Entities included in the organization consolidated financial and nonfinancial reports
Process for defining report content
Material aspects identified in the process for defining report content
For each material aspect, the aspect boundary within the organization
For each material aspect, the aspect boundary outside the organization
Explanation of the effect of and reasons for any restatements of information provided in earlier reports
Significant changes from previous reporting periods in the scope and aspect boundaries
List of stakeholder groups engaged by the organization
The basis for identification and selection of stakeholders with whom to engage
The organization’s approach to stakeholder engagement, including frequency of engagement by type and by stakeholder group, and an indication of whether any of the engagement was undertaken specifically as part of the report preparation process
Key topics and concerns that have been raised through stakeholder engagement, and how the organization has responded to those key topics and concerns, including through its reporting. Report the stakeholder groups that raised each of the key topics and concerns
Date of most recent previous report
Contact point for questions regarding the report or its contents
‘In accordance’ option and GRI Content Index
Policy and current practice with regard to seeking external assurance for the report
Governance structure of organization, including committees of the highest governance body
The organization’s values, principles, standards, and norms of behavior such as codes of conduct and codes of ethics
Disclosure on Management Approach for Aspect
Coverage of the organization’s defined benefit plan obligations.
Financial assistance received from government.
Significant indirect economic impacts, including the extent of impacts.
Total number and rates of new employee hires and employee turnover by age group, gender and region.
Average hours of training per year per employee, by gender and by employee category.
Percentage of employees receiving regular performance and career development reviews, by gender and by employee category.