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Will the lockdown inspire us to be more sustainable?

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

It is widely acknowledged that the way we live now and how we operate as organisations and businesses is not sustainable long term. There is increasing pressure on all of us to think about sustainability in what we do as individuals and organisations. I wonder whether the current lockdown gives us all time to stop and think more about sustainability?

Most of us have heard the word sustainability but just what does it mean? According to the Ministry of Environment; sustainability is about meeting the needs of today, without adversely impacting the needs of tomorrow. For many sustainability is about monitoring and reducing our energy use, implementing waste minimisation strategies and for some using materials that come from sustainable sources. Although all important and necessary, is it not; more than this? Being sustainable involves a whole rethink of how we do things and an acknowledgment that what we do as individuals and as organisations has an impact on the environment and future generations.

I often wonder whether we can continue building facilities based on the premise that someone else has got one so we need one, or the fact that bigger or newer is better. Can we also continue to maintain our parks and open spaces to the standards we expect of today given the inputs required? Long term, this may not be possible. Existing service levels may well need to be reviewed in the future to be seen as more sustainable. Covid 19 may give us a sneak preview of what this may look like.

Over the last decade, there have been incidences overseas and in New Zealand of organisations who are thinking outside the square and applying sustainable principles in their widest sense; some such as the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) in the UK amended their contracts to include sustainability provisions for the construction and property industries. This includes incorporating green building principles into design contracts. In a past newsletter, I mentioned that the Victorian Government (Australia) through the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission had undertaken a large study of sharing community facilities, the move to community sports hubs are a product of this. Closer to home some organisations have explored using remote- controlled lawnmowers to mow our highways signalling perhaps that we are on the cusp of a technology revolution using AI, alternative fuels and battery powered equipment. Some have implemented Lean Service principles into how they work. While the focus is on customer value, the process of removing non-value adding activities (waste) from one's work also reduces the amount of resources required to carry out the work. This can only benefit the environment as well.

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