Interview with Carole Young

Founding Director, Carole Young, reflects on the changes and challenges over the past ten years in a December 2009 radio interview. Below is an extract...

Do you think that businesses, over the 10 years that you’ve been involved with EcoSTEPS, have become more accepting of that whole idea of long term, long term sustainability planning? Or do you think people still want it to happen overnight?

Look, I’d like to say that it is easier, but it’s not easier to sell that, no. You have to make the business case you’ve got to be able to say: “Look this intervention is going to save you money in the long term.”

It’s a bit like putting a solar panel or putting in a water tank, you don’t expect to get the rewards within the quarter that you pay for it, within a few months. You know that you when you add up the savings over quite a few years, it’s a good investment. It would certainly help us in our job if there were a lot more positive carrots being offered around, carbon pricing and sustainability initiatives…

It’s starting to shift, of course, but the long termism is still a difficult thing to sell. Sustainability is a difficult thing to sell. True sustainability. I mean, everyone is doing carbon audits, changing the light bulbs, performing waste audits, you know, looking at some voluntary programs for their staff, changing their fleet cars to more sustainable, low energy cars… All the things that we call little tactical moves… A little bit here and there - rushing around saying what do we do next, what we do next…?

Our approach is to say: “Well hang on a minute, why are you doing it like that?” Why would you do that first over that and if you’ve got a spare ten thousand dollars in your business.

“How are you going to spend it?”

“How do you get your best return for that?”

“Why don’t you step back and think about a strategic approach, let’s really think about the risks and returns and think long term and look at your strategy and your strategy should then be able to tell you what to do, why to do it and how to do it.”

It’s a fact that very few businesses have got a proper sustainability strategy in place. They are starting to think about it now, because everyone’s done some basic education, everyone knows what sustainability means, they all know what CSR means, they know what triple bottom line means and all of that, the jargon that goes with sustainability is pretty well embedded now…

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