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Corporate Leadership is the key to sustainable practices in the 21st century

Corporate Leadership is the key to sustainable practices in the 21st century

30 April 2014

"As we're a company that deals with greenery, (we) have green practices at the heart of our business... Right at the top of the company we have that belief." says Liz Cabble, Director of Urban Planters London West, a living plants company for interiors who were awarded the Best Green Business category at the Hounslow Business Awards 2013.

She adds, "When it comes to our staff, we make sure we recruit people that have similar ideas ... They're also given a green card with a specific duty... we put them through a safe driver course. Not only does this make them a better driver, it also makes them aware of the impact of the resources they use when they're driving, so they can use less fuel by driving in a certain way. Green Mark's been really useful for us, as whilst we've done all these things, we don't have a structure to put them within. Green Mark consultants have allowed us to consolidate these activities into a framework of processes which shows what we're doing in an organised way. That's been really useful for us."

The introduction of standards and legislation to help businesses move from conventional practices to more sustainable ones was a key feature in the 1990s (e.g. ISO 14001, BREM, BREEAM, LEED). Corporate leadership is now, in the 21st century, the equivalent as standards are not enough, by themselves, to transform strategies and practices and therefore optimise benefits for businesses, environment and people. The process demands effective leadership too.

Change requires innovative and strategic thinking, yet there is still little clarity when it comes to managing changes for sustainable business practices. Evidence about environmental impacts and climate change is not always consistent and the policy-making process is influenced by ideologies, values and short-term objectives. This may make it difficult for business leaders to navigate environmental management effectively. Companies are not always able to easily justify investment in sustainability and its impact. The outcomes of a current investment may only become obvious in 10-20 years. At the same time businesses have difficulties embedding sustainability across all their policies and practices to ensure that they are embraced by all employees and partners.

Even though the above challenges exist, a small number of businesses do recognise that the world is changing and voluntarily adopt sustainable policies and practices. These businesses are usually driven by inspired leadership:

  • with a strong sense of moral purpose
  • an informed understanding of sustainability issues and
  • long-term commitment to transformation within their business.

These exceptional individuals are able to marry environmental and social issues with business acumen and thus gain a competitive advantage. They are aware of the environmental impact of their activities and they are committed to minimising this via continuous environmental good practice and the development of an ethos of environmental responsibility across staff, partners and clients.

"We strongly emphasise the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and we encourage all new members of staff to follow suit. In their inductions they are told of all the work that we have done to get this Charity to a Green Mark Level 2 accreditation and how they can help to contribute to this as this is a team effort and everyone should do their part for the planet. Most members of our staff feel strongly about use greener materials and reducing our waste to landfill and this helps other staff and our clients to follow suit." says Glenn Gunner, Senior Facilities Management Coordinator, Crisis UK.

Les Stott, Maintenance officer for Crisis, UK says: "I have the pleasure of installing the new eco saving devices to cut our carbon foot print. I have installed a few devices to save our water usage and our electric consumption which all staff using have remarked how well they work and how it has improved the usage. The staff come to me with suggestions and concerns that they may have and I can then find a suitable solution to resolve this and save our usage thus cutting our bills."

About Green Mark

Green Mark is an environmental certification scheme which helps organisations to:

  • Manage their environmental impacts
  • Save money and resources
  • Evidence a commitment to sustainability

GLE is currently providing free Green Mark certifications to ESF funded organisations, as part of the ESF Technical Assistance programme. This support is available for organisations who hold an ESF contract directly, and those who participate as a formal partner.

For more information about how Green Mark can help your organisation contact greenmark@carbonarchitecture.co.uk or telephone 02036 971253.

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