This summer, Deloitte released the results of a sustainability survey conducted in late 2009 to early 2010 with 48 companies. Although Deloitte defined the survey as cross-industry, I'd classify all but four of those respondents in manufacturing. I particularly liked the way Deloitte complemented the results with its own experience to present key messages Deloitte believes many sustainability leaders might tell their executive teams as important lessons learned. Here's one of my fav
Deloitte's principals (and the survey responses) went on to relate structure to a number of issues, from dedicated staff and budget to technology. When companies were asked the title of the primary owner of sustainability efforts at their company, 91% selected "other", rather than CFO, COO, Marketing, Environment, Health, & Safety (EHS), or Corporate Strategy, with Deloitte noting that many of the “other” responses were variations on the theme of “Corporate Sustainability Officer”.
But it isn't as if having a sustainability title carried any weight when it comes to structure; the survey found something we also see in the manufacturing industry – having a dedicated chief sustainability officer (or some equivalent title) doesn't necessarily mean financial responsibility or dedicated budget. I agree with Deloitte's reaction to the findings – companies need more dedicated sustainability infrastructure – including staff, budget, technology, and clear organizational roles and responsibilities – to drive results.
Before I comment on the technology angle, I want to stick to the title issue. As many of you know from my current research (and my most recent blog post) on EHS and sustainability, I believe EHS is at a decision point within many manufacturers' organizations, particularly those that are asset-intensive or categorized as heavy emitters. EHS can provide a necessary foundation for corporate sustainability decisions, or EHS can end up merely being the data owners for operations-focused regulatory compliance.
In Deloitte's survey, only 6% of respondents picked EHS as the primary owner of sustainability efforts. That's not a good sign for EHS although maybe those results are so low because EHS is just one seat at the table. Or as Deloitte noted, sustainability must be highly tailored to each sector and to each individual company in order to serve as a springboard for practical action. To me, that translates in this case to remind me that EHS isn’t given the same weight in every sector, even within manufacturing. As for the organizational structure I'd like to see more often? That's a sustainability roundtable that helps sustainability proliferate throughout a company and become embedded in all aspects of the business.
The next result I want to highlight gets to the heart of why I do research on how manufacturers are using IT to go green: 79% of respondents identified technology as an enabler of sustainability within the organization. No other option was selected more often. And based on my research, I can tell you the priority assigned to those technology choices, whether it's supply chain, product lifecycle, or EHS, just to name a few, depends heavily on a manufacturer's industry segment, challenges in the value chain (from customers, partners, and even suppliers), and the priority they assign to sustainability.
Let me know what you think; I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (or leave me a comment here on the community website!).