How do you manage an organization for cleantech results and sustainable performance? The understanding of sustainable management began in the 1970s as companies faced with new environmental regulations started pollution control programs. Over time, many big corporations started receiving requests from outside groups for information about their environmental performance. Often these requests come from Socially Responsible Investors who seek best-in-class performance. In the 1990s this led to development of the ISO 14000 Environmental Management Standards for organizations. The core standard, ISO 14001, Environmental Management Systems, is based on the Total Quality Management concept of Plan-Do-Check-Act for continuous improvement. Organizations can self-certify or use a third party to certify they comply with the standards.
The ISO standards are not “how to” guides. The best such guide is the US EPA’s Integrated Environmental Management Systems training tool. It is comprehensive and has many practical components such as worksheets, templates and self-analysis tools.
Environmental management has evolved to sustainability management. The new ISO 2600 Sustainability Management Standard was launched in 2010 following five years of negotiations between many different stakeholders across the world. About 500 representatives from government, NGOs, industry, consumer groups and labour organizations around the world were involved in its development, which means it represents an international consensus. Notably the standard is really a guideline, it does not allow an organization to claim “certification” to the standard.
The SIGMA Project – Sustainability Integrated Guidelines for Management – was launched in 1999 with the support of the UK Department of Trade and Industry. It offers a great selection of tools and guidance and is free to use, unlike the ISO standards.
But, who wants an additional management system in their organization? One popular approach is to use well-established management systems like the Balanced Scorecard to drive sustainability and cleantech innovation. A good article describing this approach is here; another is here. The Sustainable Balanced Scorecard approach is an excellent model for cleantech management, and there are many free resources to help implement it.
No discussion of management systems is complete without recognizing the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. It is the USA’s public-private partnership dedicated to performance excellence and has become a model for national programs around the world. The Criteria for Performance Excellence include many aspects of sustainability management and corporate social responsibility. Any cleantech company should consider joining the free Baldrige program to establish a management system to drive sustainable performance.
During 2002-2004 I was a professor of environmental management at the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima, Peru. During that time I conducted research on attracting socially responsible investors to Peru, on behalf of the national pension system. I became interested in the linkage between sustainability reporting in the GRI, Socially Responsible Investing, and performance management standards such as the Balridge Performance Excellence Program. This led to an original paper, Managing For Sustainability Using Performance Management Systems. This paper shows the criteria for sustainability most valued by socially responsible investment funds, and how those criteria relate to the Baldrige Performance criteria. This approach allows an organization to use market-based indicators of sustainability – what investors are betting on – in a recognized and well-supported management system.
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