Updated: Jan 3, 2022
In a previous post I introduced the scaffolding for a compliance assurance program that is capable of meeting the challenges of an Environment-First future. This framework focused on operational policy as the means to bridge the gap between environmental intention (i.e. commitments) and action (how commitments are assured).
This week I explore the nature of policies themselves and how their designs can make a world of difference between what you intend and what you actually achieve.
Let's consider an example policy statement using different design approaches:
1. Environment as an Assumption
Based upon principles of quality-first our organization aims to achieve customer satisfaction, job security and company prosperity.
This policy statement contains no explicit environmental intentions. This does not necessarily mean that environment objectives are being overlooked. However, without explicit environmental objectives, accountability and assurance will be difficult to achieve.
2. Environment as a Constraint
Based upon principles of quality-first our organization aims to achieve customer satisfaction, job security, company prosperity while protecting the environment.
In this case, environmental intentions are expressed as a guard rail or constraint on existing direction and goals. This may reduce negative impacts on the environment but most likely not result in substantive change to environmental outcomes.
This policy design is commonly used as it allows organizations to make some commitment to the environment without needing to make significant changes to the way they operate.
3. Environment as an Outcome
Based upon principles of quality-first our organization aims to achieve customer satisfaction, job security, company prosperity, and better environmental outcomes.
This policy expresses environmental intention as a goal. Environmental outcomes can be optimized along side of other objectives which is more likely to result in environmental improvements rather than only environmental protection.
This policy design is used by organizations that value environmental concerns at the same level as their other objectives.
4. Environment as a Principle
Based upon principles of environment-first our organization aims to achieve customer satisfaction, job security, and company prosperity.
In this last example, environmental intentions are expressed as the principles by which outcomes are achieved. Quality-first as an overarching principle is replaced or rather subsumed under an environment-first mandate. In the former case, quality-first is more than just making defect free products or services – it is about creating value. In the latter, environment-first is more than just protecting the environment – it is about creating sustainable value.
Which Design is Better?
The choice of policy design depends closely on the level of commitment that an organization has made or wants to make towards environmental objectives.
The adoption of ESG and increasing environmental regulations will no doubt drive organizations to higher levels of commitments. At the same time, others may voluntarily raise their commitments.
Whatever the case, these commitments will need to manifest as policy. You can choose whether or not environmental objectives are expressed as an assumption, a constraint, an outcome, or as a principle, Your choice will guide how your business will operate and the outcomes that will be achieved. So choose wisely.