Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Organizational Challenges in Implementing Sustainability: Insights from the Field

By Jagvir Brar. 

Going into my fourth year at University of Waterloo's Environment and Business Program, I've been exposed to many environmental issues through my academics and industry experience during co-op placements. Through working with governments and corporations, one thing that is clear is bureaucracy stands in the way of almost everything. Yes, corporations are creating new "green" positions, like Sustainability Officers and Directors of Environmental Programs - but won't this add to further bureaucracy? The Environmental Engineer probably reports to the Sustainability Officer, who reports to the VP Operations, who reports to...? Adding these new names may further complicate what organizations really should be doing - integrating sustainability into their core business.

That's why workshops on sustainability, such as the recent one at University of Guelph (reported at "Strategy and You" here) are so important. Educational leaders need to concentrate on creating CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, and all the other Chief X Officers that realize sustainability is part of the normal processes of running a business. There shouldn't have to be Chief Sustainability Officers - good environmental responsibilities should be handled without the need to create a more complicated organization that doesn't know who is responsible for what.

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*Jagvir Brar is entering his fourth year at the University of Waterloo's Environment and Business program. His past co-op experiences working at Hewlett-Packard Canada, with the Ontario Government, and at the University have given him insights into how sustainability issues operate in large organizations. Jagvir's recent experience studying in England also equipped him with a broader view of sustainability issues in other parts of the world.

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