How empowering others will build a sustainable future
Changing the way we do business has been a driving force behind the modern sustainability movement, and after over 20 years in the industry I have personally witnessed a huge transformation. No longer the premise of big corporations, or a nice-to-have catchphrase, rigorous sustainability practices are now rightly of board-level strategic concern. Businesses have evolved from having a token sustainability manager, to a team of experts in all departments. But the good work doesn’t stop there. Here at Edge, we see this as just the beginning.
Over the past 5 years, it has become increasingly apparent that sustainability can only truly evolve through the sharing of knowledge and the transference of skills. As a sustainability consultant, I may well be an expert in my field but unless I share my learnings and insights, unless I empower others with the same, the ongoing movement and momentum stays and stops with me alone. If I truly want each business to achieve their sustainable potential, I need to communicate and collaborate with invested individuals to create a collective and unified approach. Each person within each business needs the permission to become the expert and to take ownership of their own direction – long after the Edge team have left the building. Because unless internal capability is improved and empowered, the sustainability movement cannot continue to grow and innovate. Very simply: we need to teach your organisation how to do our job.
When I recently worked alongside a client at Transport for NSW supporting them to develop a Sustainability Action Plan, we deliberately set out to engage and communicate with a wide range of stakeholders within the business. Together we developed a strategy and solution – but our goal was always for the Transport NSW team to take ownership of the project and be the true experts in their business. As sustainability consultants, we help define and articulate the direction and need; but the final outcome very much belongs to the client. This ethos is a crucial part of our practice at Edge, because working in isolation is never a long-term solution. We need to work from within by sharing our thinking and insights. And when internal capabilities are improved beyond the basics, consultancies like Edge can then continue pushing boundaries and seeking innovation.
One of the reasons I was drawn to working at Edge was precisely this idea that we do things a little differently to other consultants. We don’t pretend to have all of the answers all of the time. And even if we think we know the answer, our real job is actually to empower others to make the right choices. Working with the project team for the Great Western Highway Upgrade Program is the perfect example of a business taking responsibility for their future. We shared best practice information from around the world and worked together as a team to understand what they wanted to achieve. Once they had the information and intelligence, they immediately aligned their ambitions and goals, amplifying the strategy across the project team. Instead of taking a temporary and short-term approach, the Great Western Highway project team can now champion sustainability from within which is key to keeping their sustainable goals on track well into the future.
At Edge, we see partnerships a little differently. We know that sustainability practices cannot simply be owned by a few. It will only grow if it is shared by many. So we don’t see this behaviour as talking ourselves out of a job, so much as protecting our future. We are not content to sit still, and earn the easy dollars by performing the same tasks over and over again. Our firm belief is that investing in internal capabilities up front is the only way that practices and outcomes will change. It’s not really what you know that matters; it’s what you do with it and the behaviours you share that will always make the most notable difference.