Sustainable operating strategies


MANY regard adoption of sustainability strategies as a non-event based on the belief that there are no certainties in business that social and environmental activists claim to exist. Certainties in life include issues such as sunrise and sunset, change, taxes and death.

In that regard, adoption of sustainability initiatives does not guarantee success to an ordinary businessperson. Sustainability is, therefore, a window dressing activity in most businesses that is merely meant for public relations. Evidently, companies embark on shallow sustainability programmes that are not viable, they are like mist and fog that only last as long as the favorable conditions remain.

Some business objectives include reduction of waste for the purpose of cutting costs presenting tangible and visible short and long terms financial benefits. This view is what business understands on sustainability and the objective is at tangent with social and environmental activists. Activists emphasise protection of the environment, sustainable use of non-renewable resources. Sustainability from a business perspective concentrates on reduction of waste to reduce costs and is well complimented by the need to protect the environment and sustainable use of non-renewable resources. There is, therefore, a common ground for collaboration of business and activists in driving sustainability.


Sustainable operating strategies (SOS) are, therefore, possible to adopt in business. SOS provides a means of examining the business case on all attributes of the goals that aim to protect the environment at the same time providing financial benefit.
It has capacity to bridge the gap between sustainability biodiversity related issues and those with an economic impact to the business. The objective of SOS is, therefore, to modify decision-making on important matters so at all relevant and significant issues related to sustainability are considered at the same time.

SOS is, therefore, not a destination but a journey that is characterised by a cyclical process that year after year prioritises actions that contribute to viability and the success of the company. As the strategy is adopted, it initially points to matters of productivity, legal compliance and high-risk areas. In that light, the procurement function with entrepreneurial skills is capable of driving sustainability matters by incorporating them in the procurement strategy. This then raises the question on the current status and capacity of the function to drive sustainability and the solution is in building capacity.

Nuggets of business value await businesses that climb the hills of sustainability. The nuggets of the business value are only visible when the company reflects on identifiable issues of increased sales, increased stock prices and or worker motivation. This is only reflective if the reporting is based on the outcome of SOS compared to a prior period without that strategy.

Sustainability models have the capacity to show the money to business executives so they can own it and drive it. SOS enhances business reputation and brand strength. The success of the business is based on competitiveness, effectiveness, desirable products and services and new markets that are driven by SOS. SOS further propels productivity. It reduces operational burden and interference. Supply chain costs the driver of competitiveness is managed. By the adoption of SOS, the business becomes attractive to lenders and investors, thereby, reducing the cost of capital. Finally, legal liability is reduced.

Executives are, therefore, encouraged to review if the procurement function is strategically positioned to drive SOS. They need to check if the systems are capable to drive it. Staffing skills and levels together with the organisational culture have a bearing on the drive to establish and implement SOS. Procurement has a major role and this is the time to correct any anomalies that are existing.

●Nyasha Chizu is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: Skype: nyasha.chizu