Tackling an Organization’s Environmental Sustainability Challenges

– By Gregory Price

Master of Business Administration students learn early on that to achieve a goal in any organization requires a documented plan that meets specific deliverables along the way. Necessary components within the plan will include benchmarks as a measure against progress, as well as methods and tactics suitable to meet measurements and metrics. However, not all goals can be accomplished in this manner.

Turning attention to developing a sustainable goal for the organization, where social, environmental and financial considerations all become part of the plan, communication and definition become heavy component to ensure its success. Sustainability in business can be measured through a model known as the Triple Bottom Line (3BL). The foundation of using the 3BL model to a sustainable outcome is more than simply attaching a goal to an outcome and moving forward to reach that stated goal. The idea of the 3BL should permeate throughout the organization, yet to attain that goal, the factors are complex with communication playing a critical role to a successful outcome (Fisk, 2010).

Consequently, incorporating sustainability goals into the organization takes time and presents leaders challenges. One of the first steps is to define and clarify what sustainability means to the organization’s stakeholders. It is not an easy question to answer and requires a systemic course of discussion and data collection. Consequently, the complexities in determining the direction for sustainable action requires a strong leader with a strong moral compass and someone who recognizes the importance of carrying out the goals regardless of the business obstacles that may be in the way (Iuscu, Neagu, & Neagu, 2012).

This leads us to ask what kind of leader and what style of leadership is needed to deliver upon these complex challenges. Leaders require vision to navigate today’s complex environment, the ability to empower employees to create energy, enthusiasm, and to enjoy the process to reach the identified goals. This is no easy relationship. Metcalf and Benn (2013)  defined the required leader as someone, “who can read and predict through complexity, think through complex problems, engage groups in dynamic adaptive organizational change and have the emotional intelligence to adaptively engage with their own emotions associated with complex problem solving”.

Thus, getting started without determining these fundamental deliverables can only lead to confusion, missed opportunity, and a false start. Though opinions abound and research is ongoing, much of what is found is that to reach a level of sustainability within the organization it will be accomplished through leadership, discovery, and ambition to unlock the many complex layers of social, environmental and financial determinants of sustainability (Metcalf & Benn, 2013).

In the end, leaders who engage the organization in a discussion on sustainability find that it is a “process of influence” (Metcalf & Benn, 2013). How will you start the conversation?


Fisk, P. (2010). People, planet, profit: How to embrace sustainability for innovation and business growth (1st ed.). London, Philadelphia: Kogan Page.
Iuscu, S., Neagu, C., & Neagu, L. (2012). Emotional intelligence essential component of leadership, Global Conference On Business & Finance Proceedings, 7 (2), 213-217.
Metcalf, L., & Benn, S. (2013). Leadership for sustainability: An evolution of leadership ability. Journal of Business Ethics, 112 (3), 369-384. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1278-6

Greg+Price+2013+small Gregory Price is a doctoral student at City University of Seattle.
He is working on a Doctor of Education Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership
and expects to complete his degree in 2016. Gregory is also an Assistant
Professor at City University of Seattle and co-owner of a 26 year old,
Seattle-based, publishing company, Price Media, Inc.
Please send comments or questions to gpmba@CityU.edu
or connect with him at http://www.linkedin.com/in/gregpricemba

Published February 11, 2014



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