Sustainability – the new criteria

Having clear sustainability policies isn’t just about making you feel warm and fuzzy. Your customers, suppliers and staff will demand to know your position. SUE BARRETT

Sue Barrett

By Sue Barrett

Question: What is your position on sustainability?

Question: What community improvement activities is your company involved with?

These are questions, among many others, that my team and I are responding to for a Request For Proposal (RFP) document for a sales training project with a large Australian corporation. This is the first time we have been asked to respond to these questions in a formal manner and legitimise our position on “sustainability”.

As sales people and as business owners, not only are we being asked to legitimise our product offering, our service standards, etc, we are now required to articulate our stand on sustainability.

How many of us could articulate our approach to sustainability into pithy, meaningful, realistic, workable statement and strategy that incorporates the many areas that affect our “sustainability”?

This RFP raised questions for our team:

  • What is meant by sustainability?
  • What do we mean by sustainability?
  • What do we say when someone asks us to explain our position on sustainability?

The “green” agenda has be successfully linked to the term sustainability for over 10 years now, however sustainability can and does mean so much more. We knew we needed to make visible our approach to sustainability even though on reflection we were all, consciously or not, working to be sustainable. Here are some of the areas we raised to include in our sustainability strategy and statement:

  • Vision and values.
  • Culture.
  • People.
  • Expertise and process.
  • Service and delivery standards.
  • Innovation, research and development.
  • Business viability.
  • Environment.
  • Community.
  • Corporate governance.

In researching this topic to help our business to articulate our approach to sustainability I also came across a great resource from Swinburne University which I thought you might like to review as well.

Here is an excerpt from their document on:

Developing a sustainability strategy
A ten-point guide for small to medium sized businesses

“Business sustainability is becoming increasingly important for managers in the modern economy. Put simply, business sustainability can be described as a holistic continuous improvement process that includes the sound management of people and the environment. Business sustainability makes good business sense because the benefits feed directly back into the bottom line. But where do we start as small-medium sized businesses?

“Rather then being just ‘another thing to do’, business sustainability is an over arching concept that involves doing everything better and more efficiently. True sustainability must be integrated into all operations of business – from policy and management through to on-ground activities such as purchasing, production and distribution. While sustainability needs to be driven from the top, it’s not just the job of a single staff member or department – it involves everyone!

“Sustainability is often approached in an ad-hoc way. For example, you may have a couple of standalone initiatives in your work place that are not linked to any broad strategic objectives of the business. This is a good start, but a coordinated process requires the development of a sustainability strategy that is strongly aligned to the business plan.”

My advice is to make sure everyone in your business knows where you all stand on sustainability. Besides all the benefits it brings for everyone in your business to know and live your sustainability agenda you now need it to be evaluated and considered as a valid business partner so you are in a position to win business in the sales world.

Sue Barrett is Managing Director of BARRETT Pty Ltd. Sue is an experienced consultant and trained coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating High Performing Sales Teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. For more information please go to

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