To be sustainable a business needs to be the rifle not the shotgun.

A rifle fires a single projectile, which heads in the direction it is pointed. Depending upon the rifle, environmental conditions and the shooter as to how far the "bullet" ends up. In some cases the bullet can go hundreds of metres.

A shotgun is designed to fire a cartridge, which is usually full of little balls. The size of the cartridge depends upon the size and number of those. These little balls go in all driections once the cartridge leaves the barrel of the shotgun. This type of weapon does not send the projectiles a great distance but is intended to make sure that up close the target is definitely hit, although it might not be stopped in it's tracks.

So why am I giving a very brief summary of two of the main types of firearms? It is because when a business wants to be truly sustainable, it must be like the rifle. It must set a target and aim for it and practice until it is achieved.

Unfortunately most businesses think if they do a little of this and a little of that they can be truly sustainable. What they are being is the shotgun and there is little chance that the target they are aiming for is going to be achieved. The scatter approach is not going to get what the business wants in the long run.

If a business has a clear set of goals and then develops a way of measuring them, it has a much greater chance of being like the rifle and achieving them.

For a business to be like the rifle, it needs to have a clear and agreed Sustainability Policy. This document sets the direction for the business and what it wants to achieve. It should be written carefully with consultation from all stakeholders. It should meet the following guidelines as a minimum;

  • Describe the business and it's location
  • Set goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) but a challenge.
  • Show all stakeholders
  • Show when and how the Policy will be reviewed
  • Signed off by the senior person
  • Be shown on the business's website
  • Communicated to all staff

If a business then has processes that are aimed to achieve these goals and each Manager and staff member has key performance indicators that are aligned with these, then it has a very good chance of achieving them. The business will then be like the rifle, headed in a direction and hitting it's target.

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