Sir Jonathon Porritt stands down as Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission today and he blasts government, with a small ‘g’ as having not ‘got it’.
The reality, however, is the SD movement has never ‘got it’. That our ‘Quality of Life’ is a quality issue. That sustainability is a journey of continual improvement and not a destination.
Of doing the right thing, right by enabling process learning, something that our democratic institutions have failed to evolve to do and we have failed to educate ourselves to understand.
My past letters in Green futures illustrate this
Letter published in Green Futures May/June 2001
I noted with interest your reporting of the EU Environmental Awards and the comment by Environmental Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom that “sustainable development and greater competitiveness go hand in hand” [GF 27, p10]. These awards were appropriately made to companies that have or manage significant environmental impacts.
Most small or medium-sized companies, however, do relatively little to address their environmental impact, despite the effort of projects like SIGMA [see GF 23, p 21]. We need to do more to engage such companies. I am convinced the best way to do so is by integrating sustainability management into quality management – since most businesses have at least some system for the latter, however informal.
But it’s becoming increasingly evident that the traditional, customer-focused definition of quality as ‘fitness for purpose’ is inadequate. We need a new definition. Here are two possible ones that I advance for debate:
1. Quality minimises the ‘loss to society’ resulting from the creation, use and disposal of products, processes and services.
2. Quality maximises the life cycle efficiency of products, processes and services.
Viewed in this way, less than perfect quality creates unsustainable systems, which are the basis of the problems being addressed by the SIGMA Project and other initiatives.
An additional benefit of this redefinition of quality will be to re-examine the ways in which the quality and environmental ‘industries’ have become so ‘standards-based’. My definition of quality implies a ‘synergy’ between the supplier and customer rather than compliance. My hope is that the SIGMA Project will become a means to do precisely that.
Letter published in Green Futures 2004
Reading with interest Jonathon Porritt’s article in the current edition of Green Futures brings to mind my letter you were kind enough to publish in edition 28.
The view I expressed then and I feel is evident from this article is that Sustainable development is seen as an unaffordable luxury and not a central business imperative.
The environmental community has admirably driven SD but will only gain credence in business if it is expressed in terms of Quality based financial metrics; a concept that has a resonance within all businesses, large and small.
Reprising my previous letter, SD advocates must work to redefine Quality a
“Minimising the loss to society resulting from the creation, use, and disposal of products, processes and services.
If losses are minimised, sustainability is brought nearer. Quality and sustainability are the two sides of the same coin, toss it and you can only win.