Sustainability 2.0 For Business Process Professionals

Alexander Peters, Ph.D. By Alexander Peters

Many executives are hoping that the UN Conference in Copenhagen, currently in progress, will negotiate an international deal on carbon reductions this week, providing stable directions to governments and businesses about how to deal with climate change. I think that for industry leaders such an outcome would be very nice, but not essential. Most of these leaders — companies such as BMW, Nokia, Roche, or TNT — are already committed to manage for sustainability and:

  1. Take actions to reduce carbon emissions. Leading organizations launch carbon reduction initiatives before being forced to do so, to reduce their own costs and boost operational efficiency.
  2. Address environmental impacts strategically. Leading organizations integrate energy efficiency and carbon reduction initiatives into their overall strategies for preserving economic health in the long term.

The concept of sustainability is not new. Senior executives have always viewed it as a critical approach to positioning their organizations in the marketplace for growth and profitability. But with the recent economic downturn and soaring energy costs, it has become clear that an open-ended commitment to growth is untenable. As a consequence, they are elevating sustainability to address competitive advantage, and negative environmental and social impacts.

Under this extended definition, which I will call “sustainability 2.0”, senior executives need to bolster — or altogether replace — products, processes, and value chains that are perceived as having negative social and ecological impacts. To succeed, these executives need technology support, innovation power, insights, and recommendations from business process professionals (BPPs) acting at the intersection of business and technology domains, such as sales and marketing, research and development, operations, supply chain management, human resources and finance, information management, overall process optimization, automation, and usability.

Sustainability 2.0 gives BPPs a significant opportunity to create value and competitive advantage.  To seize it BPPs must:

  1. Systematically search for and consolidate process duplications.
  2. Upgrade legacy applications and standards to the highest level required by the business.
  3. Extend your work beyond customizing ERP, CRM, ECM, and BI application modules, to include sustainability reporting, rules, measures, and metrics.
  4. Develop expertise in areas such as energy efficiency to measure and mitigate the carbon emissions of your operations and supply chains.
  5. Watch the marketplace, anticipate regulations, understand how competitors respond, and promote adherence to the most stringent standards as an opportunity for innovation.

Do you want more hints and best practices? Please read my recent report “Business Process Professionals Must Champion Sustainability In This Era Of Shortages And Risks” or email me apeters@forrester.com.