23 June 2014
Sustainability has been a big issue for a while now, but when you try to discuss it rationally you often find that, as with many things, there are not just polarised views, there are many extremes.
What you see depends on where you are viewing it. If you are prepared to move and look from another vantage point you will see something different. The object doesn't change - just the way that you see it. Unfortunately people with entrenched views don't want to move and sustainability is one of those topics where I think that things could be so much better if there was less rhetoric.
I was talking last week about decision-making and one of the ways to make good decisions is to have robust information on which to base them. That involves looking at the potential consequences of your decision from several angles and an element of sustainability comes into play here too, because you need to consider short and long-term solutions. Sometimes in the moment of making the decision you may not have the time or the money to go with the best long-term solution and you have to go with a quick fix. The best solution is not the right answer at that specific time. If the right answer allows you to survive whereas the best solution might have taken you under, then which would you take?
The trick in such circumstances is to look at where you can plug the long-term solution into your plans and take a short-term solution that plugs the gap. Never take a short-term decision that compromises the long game. One of the reasons why you have to make these compromise decisions is a lack of something. It might be funds, but it might be time, where you don't have the time to research and have to make your decision quickly.
Time is a precious commodity and one that is often overlooked when talking about sustainability. We talk about reducing waste in terms of product, but rarely about the amount of time that we waste, and when you think about it, that is the one personal resource that we know is finite. We may not know when our time will run out, but we know that it will, and so perhaps we should be a little more concerned. In business terms time has a cost and we can quantify it, but other than in jobs where performance is measured in time, how often do we take a waste of time into account? When we need to make a decision we often procrastinate and effective decision-making is one way to eliminate that waste of time.
If you can reduce the amount of wasted time, can you recycle time? I suggest that you can in the sense that you can document things in a way so that next time you, or those who follow you, find themselves in a similar situation or need to make the same decision, the evidence is there to examine. You can invest your time to derive future benefit from it.
I am in the middle of a short series of discussions on sustainability with some of our bright young business prospects. They, too, are investing their time in seeking to learn about such things and there is another aspect of sustainability that we should not ignore because the passing on of knowledge and providing the ability for the next generation to challenge our thinking and improve on it is perhaps another way of sustaining our world. It is, at least, another way of looking at it.
John Bowen is an FM consultant