by Mary Jo Lockbaum, Principal, The Sustainability Group
Sustainability is an emerging and important aspect of a company’s success. You hear about it everywhere in the media – but what is it? And isn’t it inherent in Investment Recovery? How should IR professionals approach this concept to help get noticed for what they do in this arena – to ensure that they “get a seat at the table”? A key part of succeeding with “sustainability speak” is using the right terms – this is essential to ensure that you’re on the same page as everyone else – yet oftentimes, people misuse terms. Sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” Many in IR already understand how to take credit for the economic part. . .but should consider how to take credit for the environmental and social aspects of Investment Recovery, as well.
Sustainability goes way beyond recycling. Ensure that you are recognized for your efforts re: reduction, reuse, and recycling – and then add “rethink.” Put “rethink” first, and change processes where possible, so that you have less material in the first place to have to reduce, reuse, and recycle. If you’re recycling a lot, it’s often because there’s a lot of needless waste. Don’t forget to track dollars made and saved through redeployment, fewer raw materials used, the scrap value of commodities and timing of scrap sales, risk mitigation through proper disposal, employee retention through benefits (such as sales of used cars, etc.), decreased transport through use of local materials, tax deductible donations to non-profits and new markets for “green” products, etc. You may also be able to work with Procurement regarding residual product value, or with other departments for gains in IR – e.g., work with Engineering to reuse scrap as a raw material instead of disposing of it, and calculate productivity gains, as well as dollar savings.

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a framework that many organizations use to publicly communicate economic, environmental, and social performance. Be aware of the indicators that apply to IR, such as EN2, EN22, EN26, EC1, EC2, etc. Many GRI indicators result in “a seat at the table” for the IR professional, helping you get recognition for what you already do, which is an integral part of the overall sustainability picture for your company.

Your next steps should be to start to use “sustainability speak” to get credit for what you do, set up a program to track dollars saved or made through all of the methods we discussed, work with Procurement or other departments to “rethink” purchases where applicable, and get help from external resources if necessary.
Reprinted from ASSET 2.0, the Investment Recovery Business Journal, Vol. 3, 2008

© The Investment Recovery Association