Sustainability? Whatever…

I have to be honest about this, even though I may sound like a Neanderthal …but “sustainability” has never really flicked my switch.  Yeah I know the planet is important, and yeah I recycle – but I’ve never really thought deeply about it and I’ve certainly never focused on it from a portfolio management perspective…that is until very recently.

I didn’t want to write about this until I’ve finished the book but I need to get some ideas off my chest because I’m feeling a little inspired. I’m reading Organizational Survival: Profitable Strategies for a Sustainable Future by Gregory Balestreros (ex CEO of the Project Management Institute) and Nathalie Udo.  I had the pleasure to meet Greg a couple of years ago as we were presenting at IIL’s project management day – we only chatted for a minute or two, but I think we clicked.

Anyway, there’s some nuggets in the book that have hit home already and I’m only on chapter 3.  The first three things that made me think were:

1)   Resources: Astronauts cherish air, water and food, because they have a limited supply.  Without it they die.  Portfolios cherish resources because we have a limited supply, without it projects will die and then the organization will die too.  The earth has limited resources and we generally we don’t cherish them, therefore we will all die.

2)   Population increase: Earths rapidly increasing population means equally rapid growth in middle class which leads to even more rapid consumption of products and food and which means rapid use of resources.

3)   Fresh water.  Almost 800 million people do not have access to clean water every day.  However, 500 billion litres of water are used every day so people in the USA can have electricity. This translates into about 5 litres of water per hour to keep a 60watt light bulb going.


So following this, here’s four crazy ideas that will probably only happen following some global cataclysmic event around 2050(ish)

1) Strategy: Companies, Brands, Governments should incorporate sustainability objectives into their strategy.  The domino effect would mean that the portfolio management would deliver projects that contributed to those objectives and bit by bit everyone would be doing some good to the world.

2)   Government: Governments should mandate that existing business case review gates incorporate a sustainability assessment.   As an example, the Major Projects Authority and Treasury in the UK could incorporate sustainability contribution as part of their overall business case and assessment review process…this is easy to do – yes, it really is easy to do….if you want to.

3)   Tax them!: Governments could force large corporates (as a minimum) to pay sustainability tax unless they can prove that 1 or 2 percent of their profits were re-invested into some form of sustainable element.

4)   Tax them again!: Organizations that receive government bailout financing should be subject to a higher rate corporate sustainability taxation. In addition,  the recipients of board room bonus in such organizations should also be subject to higher rate personal sustainability taxation… for the rest of eternity.

Feel free to add you’re ideas in the comments if you have any.

To be continued…



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