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Is It Time To Ease Off On The Sustainability Talk?

dictionary2.jpgThe language of sustainability – phrases like “being proactive;” “our social responsibilities;” and “sustainable value creation” – is becoming the new variety of “weasel words,” according to an article in The Age. Words that are repeated while being devoid of meaning.

The danger is that corporate acknowledgement of the importance of sustainability, and widespread adoption of its language, increasingly runs the risk of being seen as a facade – or dispassionate compliance,” according to the article.

What should companies do? The article suggests that a company should be its own harshest critic: “This point was well made by Lynette Thorstensen, group head of sustainable business practices at IAG, at the 2007 CSR Congress, when she said ‘you have to be careful not to believe your own rhetoric.'” Today, it’s companies that speak honestly and begin to redesign their organizations that benefit.

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3 thoughts on “Is It Time To Ease Off On The Sustainability Talk?

  1. Interestingly, they recognise a real problem with escalating industry rhetoric but then fail to offer an alternative language other than touchy-feely psycho-babble that will leave consumers and execs exactly where they started, bemused and confused! The language of the sustainability debate is currently either in the CSR ivory tower, NGO or Governemnt and none resonate with those that need to understand and change – the average businessman, consumer or citizen.

  2. While there will, unfortunately, always be those companies and organizations that will use the phrase of the day to hock their wares, we should not overlook the exciting fact that sustainability and environmental stewardship and being green are on the forefront of everyone’s mind. This growing interest leads to real programs and efforts that generate real results positively effecting our environment and peoples habits. Consumers growing interest in products and services offering a “green” benefit are also growing more astute and questioning exactly “how” a company is operating in an ‘environementally sustainable’ manner.

    Jason Bean
    Paper Retriever Program Manager

  3. Numbers speak loader than words. Our problem is quantitative so surely the solution should be quantitative. Words like recyclable and biodegradable do not help people to compare items, dollars do. We can quantify GHG and some biodiversity impacts, so let’s start with those. That’s how we do it in The Netherlands with Foodservice disposables.

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