Sustainability: A Continuous Journey

IMG_3149Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to meet Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appetit, and Fedele graciously agreed to speak to my class on innovation for sustainability.  Fedele can point to a number of sustainability initiatives and accomplishments at Bon Appetit over the last several years, including an emphasis on buying local, use of disposables made from renewable sources, cage free eggs, low carbon diet awareness, sustainable seafood, crate free pork, and food waste reduction.  I particularly like the stand that he took to improve working conditions for tomato workers in Florida.  He leads with a commitment to principles.

Fedele also shared an article that he wrote entitled “Redefining Sustainability – or Practicing What We Preach.”  It’s a high impact article that affirms a key concept for organizations adopting sustainability principles: the importance of the journey.  Organizations embracing sustainability should be thinking in terms of a long term effort; not a specific end game.  As with the term continuous improvement, organizations should continually focus on getting to the next level in terms of sustainability.  Doing so will ensure further benefits for the planet, further inspiration for the workforce, and often further improvement for the bottom line through cost reductions.  Measurement is key, but it is important not to stop innovating for sustainability when initial targets are achieved.

Creating the organizational culture to support that journey — a culture which supports the continual flow of new ideas and innovation (from all levels), a willingness to experiment, and a desire to learn from failure — is also key.   A commitment to “doing the right thing” in terms of people and the environment is also a great help in the sustainability journey, ensuring that it is a continual process and creating an innovative, inspired workforce. Bon Appetit is a great example for other organizations just getting into sustainability, as is Stonyfield Farms. Both organizations have achieved success in embedding sustainability, but they also recognize that the journey is continuous.

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