Overpowering Friction

Personal leadership opportunities at times present more friction points than progress. Overcoming friction though has the capacity to present opportunities when unexpected leadership challenges occur as solutions to difficult problem sets are found. Coming from an armed forces background, I have experienced first hand the complexities of military operations and am cognizant that every opportunity has the capacity to present friction that will impede progress. Currently as I pursue my leadership opportunity to change the way organizations repurpose their physical assets and influence the mechanisms in which they use to report on their repurposing activities, I realize friction is not only limited to the battlefield and there is always going to unforeseen aspects of situations that have the capacity to disrupt our meticulously planned strategies.

As managing friction serves as part of the tasks that enable the success of an organization, developing a methodology to address and overcome the unexpected is crucial. From experience, I have learned that dealing with friction doesn’t entail generating more comprehensive plans that attempt to address every possible issue that could go wrong. When individuals get buried in a plan’s details, they often end up not making timely progress and prematurely giving up. A plan just needs to possess the capacity to provide direction; additionally, implementing communication protocols within an organization that ensure employees understand their place in the overall corporate strategy will facilitate plans to not crumble when they confront unpredictable situations, as the outcomes of plans most often don’t result in the envisioned end state. I’m sure the desired CSR platform that I’m striving to assist in creating will have an outcome that is different then what is currently imagined. To ensure our entire workforce comprehends and is aligned with our leadership’s intent for developing our platform, effective communication is paramount to making sure corporate priorities are consistently considered and employees are best armed to make decisions as friction occurs.

Additionally, the workforce must deliver feedback that enables company leadership to understand what friction points they may be facing. With the appropriate communication mechanisms in place friction can be addressed in an adaptive manner as it arises. I have learned each person in an organization can play a vital role in addressing friction points which are ultimately inevitable. As friction is encountered, I recommend the following to circumvent the unanticipated through making the appropriate mental shifts to overcome whatever challenge you or your organization may be presented with.

1. Communication: Ensure your organization’s desired end state is clear and well understood amongst all employees, as well as provide reasons why the organization is moving toward a specific outcome.

2. Timeline: Set a definitive time frame for reducing encountered friction points, this will foster a sense of urgency toward overcoming a specific problem set.

3. Synchronization: Ensure the method in which friction points are addressed takes into consideration corporate beliefs, values, and priorities. This will help in aligning employees to work together and take the appropriate action to address complex issues as they arise.

4. Think about Impact: Addressing friction points swiftly could potentially have negative future effects or impact others in an unintended manner. The last thing anyone wants when attempting to address friction is a more complicated problem; therefore, it is pertinent to think solutions through and consider how to best minimize any harm potential resolutions may present.

5. Be Prepared: Reflect on what could potentially go wrong within your organization, as well as what external factors could adversely affect your business. Anticipating future scenarios will make your organization better prepared to deal with situations presenting friction.

6. Think outside the Box

As my personal leadership opportunity has recently offered multiple friction points I have successfully used the presented methods to overcome them. Every time friction is encountered it is a good opportunity for organizations to remind themselves of what is truly important, as well as what changes need to be made to limit future issues. Organizations are continuously evolving entities and need to be able to adapt to inconsistent and fluctuating conditions.

Advertisements

Avoiding an Apocalypse

Concerning the transition to a low (or no) carbon economy, I am astonished that a low carbon economy is even an option considering the amount of CO2 emissions that have been released into the atmosphere to date. It is generally accepted by most that CO2 emissions are hazardous to the biosphere, though it appears a large segment of individuals are not cognizant of the fact that it is possible to achieve outcomes pertaining to carbon dioxide production that entails zero man-made CO2 emissions (Elias & Lininger, 2010). No net CO2 emissions is extremely feasible from office buildings to homes to vehicles to factories which assumingly account for the majority of current CO2 emissions. Society requires education that will inform larger bodies of individuals of the realistically and relatively inexpensive possibility of transitioning to a no carbon economy. As individuals become knowledgeable pertaining to the topic they will realize the necessity to either adopt a no carbon economy or face the alternative in which we systematically prevent the longevity of future generations.

Reducing deforestation and forest degradation is the quickest way to diminish CO2 emissions (Walsh, et al., 2017), not only should society be focused on zero carbon emissions, initiatives should focus on thinking of methods to reclaim CO2 emissions that have already escaped into the atmosphere. Ceasing to use CO2 emitting products or preventing deforestation isn’t enough, attention needs to be paid to reforestation and afforestation concepts. “Activities to enhance the rate at which tropical forests sequester carbon are especially important” (Walsh, et al., 2017), as deforestation adversely results in diminishing CO2 absorbing resources at a nearly unrecoverable rate. Reforestation replenishes resources that have been depleted in existing woodland areas and afforestation aims to reestablish forest land that previously existed but has since been exhausted and is no longer woodland. The land necessary for large scale afforestation and reforestation is available, especially if pasture land that was previously forest land is converted back to its original state, thereby fulfilling its absorption purpose. Large scale tree planting initiatives are a viable means to facilitate reforestation and afforestation efforts that will ultimately curtail the rapid decline of our environment by removing air pollution, reducing the rate of global warming, and enable the rehabilitation of global ecosystems and environmental networks.

Reforestation, afforestation and other methods to reclaim CO2 emissions already released in the atmosphere are promising mechanisms to get global warming and other adverse environmental factors under control in the long run. As these efforts are extremely timely to produce results it is paramount that in the near-term society adopts a mentality of zero not lower CO2 emissions as current efforts will take decades if not longer to yield positive results. Deforestation must stop, and measures must be taken to plant back what has been uplifted from the global terrain.

References

Elias, P., & Lininger, K. (2010). The Plus Side: Promoting Sustainable Carbon Sequestration in Tropical Rain Forests. Cambridge: Union of Concerned Scientists.

Walsh, B., Ciais, P., Janssens, I. A., Peñuelas, J., Riahi, K., Rydzak, F., . . . Obersteiner, M. (2017, April 13). Pathways for balancing CO2 emissions and sinks. Nature Communications, 1-12. doi:doi:10.1038/ncomms14856.

Overcoming the Obstacles of Sustainable Growth

Due to the rise in global warming contributing to adverse climate change, public expectation for corporations and municipalities to be held accountable for their actions is a pertinent issue. Thus, leading organizations have begun to develop and implement a myriad of sustainable strategies to facilitate the manner they operate. To not greenwash (Willers & Kulik, 2011) brands but instead report on corporate efforts, environmental activists and government bodies are emphasizing the need for sustainability reporting to be as important as financial reporting. “One of the key drivers behind the increase in sustainability reporting has been the acknowledgment that to be meaningful, a sustainability strategy must be based on reliable, concrete data. This can only be the case once the mechanisms and systems for reporting the facts are put in place” (University of Toronto, 2015).

More organizations are recently starting to overcome their obstacles of sustainability in regards to reporting by implementing strategies that adhere to “the practice of measuring, disclosing, and being accountable to stakeholders for organizational performance against specific environmental, social and economic/governance objectives” (University of Toronto, 2015). Companies in the public spotlight have a tremendous role to play as influencers when it comes to giving back vice taking from the environment, wasting less and being socially responsible leaders. However, hard data through reporting mechanisms is necessary to support their efforts possessing optimal meaningful results in the future; therefore, social proof is key.

Therein, my leadership opportunity over the next two years is to not only to change the way organizations repurpose their physical assets, but also influence the mechanisms in which they use to report on their repurposing activities. I plan to accomplish this by leading and assisting my team to bring our data-driven organization eevig CSR Solutions (eevig) to serve as a platform that has the capacity to influence a broad market of diverse global corporations regarding asset repurposing.

eevig is a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) tool that facilitates organizations to extend the life cycle of unneeded items, divert them from the landfill and report on environmental and social stewardship through data. eevig’s platform attempts to accurately measure an organization’s asset relocation impact within their community and the environment at large. Redundant assets are diverted from landfills and used by needful entities such as registered charities, nonprofits, students, refugees and veterans.

Our CSR tool will reduce the rate of landfill disposals and contribute to holding corporations and municipalities accountable for their physical asset management and unnecessary waste. Humanity must not abandon capitalism but instead strive to maximize the principles that capitalism is comprised of so that the pursuit of profit is not merely financial, but additionally fueled by enlightened environmental and self-interest, in this case ironically one that significantly reduces “environmental damage caused by economic growth” (Macdonald, 2016). The present market craves sustainable options to maintain economic growth, as a result, my opportunity to create a platform over the next two years to help reduce adverse effects on the environment are extremely favorable.

Success will be measured in:

  • Initial buy in from customers, i.e. registration, platform use
  • Tonnage of assets diverted from landfills
  • Number of recipients of repurposed assets

Fearing the position the world has adopted over the last 200 years has led me to devise ideas to positively influence capitalism and the desire for continual growth and profitability despite an evident ecological crisis. If change does not transpire, I fear what the next 50 years will look like because of corporate self-interest and environmental negligence. Therefore, taking full advantage of the leadership opportunity ahead of me is of dire importance.

References

Macdonald, D. (2016). Lecture 11 Series. (University of Toronto, Performer) Toronto.

University of Toronto. (2015). Sustainability Reporting. Sustainability Reporting . Toronto: School of the Environment, University of Toronto.

Willers, C., & Kulik, A. (2011). CSR as Corporate Strategy vs. “Greenwashing”: CSR as a New Paradigm of Brand Management? Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Can One’s Trash Truly be Another’s Treasure?

OMG the new iPhone just came out, do I really need it? Of course I do! I have a perfectly good working iPhone 7, but it’s not the new iPhone X. It is just a cell phone what’s one more to the environment, no harm there right? I mean there are only 50 million tons of e-waste generated annually (Kamal, 2017) and me buying a new phone is only 4.55 ounces of that, so what’s the big deal?

As a consumer who enjoys new gadgets, I find myself having the above debate with myself each year, once Apple announces its latest product. I wonder what is the environmental impact of waiting another year? Truly, who knows, who cares?

Well I hope someone cares. Sometimes I believe companies intentionally design their products to last a limited amount of time, enticing us to buy a new one on their timeline. Would they actually do something like that?

So no iPhone for me this year, maybe a new car instead? I was really thinking I could use one of those. My car is a gas-guzzler, I could save the environment some carbon emissions by upgrading to a brand new hybrid, or how about one of those trendy electric cars?

I did pass a used car dealership the other day that had a 2014 Nissan Leaf – a smart purchase. I could repurpose a perfectly fine asset that isn’t being used. On second thought, it wouldn’t have that new car smell, which I quite like and someone else drove it before me. I just can’t do it, I work way too hard to drive someone else’s leftovers, and what would the neighbors think?

I would rather just keep my massive carbon footprint till I can afford something green, whoops, I mean ‘new and green’. So what exactly am I going to buy? I need that immediate gratification that comes with a new purchase. Maybe some new clothes, everything in my closet is so last year. Vintage is in this year, there is a thrift shop up the street maybe I’ll check it out, then I can make use of items that someone else is no longer using. I could even take my old clothes to the thrift shop. Hold up, you mean I can buy clothes that someone else has already worn. I shudder thinking about it, gross. I mean I can just buy new stuff that looks old – that’s my kind of vintage. As for my clothes, why donate, I mean I really can wear them again once they come back in style, then I can have real vintage items without having to go to a thrift shop and wear someone else’s old stuff, so at least my items won’t be joining the 84 percent of unwanted clothes that end up in landfills or an incinerator (Jacobsen, 2011) – well at least not yet.

We’ve all heard it before and despite comments similar to these being a comical parody, they are part of an ugly reality that the middle and upper classes of society are trashing more items now than ever before. As a result, we as a society are literally reaching a critical irreversible point where excess consumption is adversely affecting the sustainability of our planet. We live in a time when the concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle only drive the majority of consumer behavior when it is fashionable and convenient vice merely out of an attempt to preserve our precious environment. A change in consumer behavior is critical to prevent massive amounts of garbage being sent to landfill, ultimately taking up space, which we are rapidly running out of, not to mention the deadly air emissions that are released into the atmosphere from landfills through the biodegradation process (Environmental Protection Agency, 2017). This results in Methane emissions that are often times as, if not more, dangerous that than carbon dioxide, as well as, present hazardous concerns to our global water supply. We are no longer our parents environmentally oblivious generation; since we were children, we have been told and understand the importance of waste reduction, reusing items, and recycling, but though we thoroughly understand these concepts, seldom do we practice them. To obtain a clean earth we must reduce energy, limit out waste, reuse our products, and recycle to enable the preservation of our natural resources. As corporations continue their attempts to increase their profits by selling more not less, we have to be cognizant enough about the environment and the individual effect each one of us can have on it without buying into marketing ploys that would lead us to believe that we can just buy our way to a greener environment. So when you are contemplating buying your next treasure, remember that with a few exceptions, most often buying nothing at all or someone else’s trash is better for the environment than purchasing ‘new and green’.

 

Reference

Environmental Protection Agency. (2017, April 14). Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

Jacobsen, J. (2011, September 08). Fast Fashion: Cheap Clothes = Huge Environmental Cost. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from EcoWatch: https://www.ecowatch.com/fast-fashion-1994121280.html

Kamal, B. (2017, September 27). Where do 50 Million Tonnes a Year of Toxic E-Waste Go? Retrieved November 13, 2017 , from Inter Press Service: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/50-million-tonnes-year-toxic-e-waste-go/