Tag Archive for 'Environment'

Look for your sustainability letter

This article is about three letters to small businesses.

The first letter was born in the 1950s, when the quality ideas of an American, Edwards Deming, reversed “Made in Japan” from a metaphor for cheap to quality. During the 1980s, after American industry had lost competitiveness with Japan, quality processes like ISO and Six Sigma were adopted and “Made in America” returned to prominence.

By 1990, now with their in-house quality act together, big businesses realized they needed similar commitments from integrated vendors. That’s when small businesses started getting letters from customers requesting evidence of their quality process – or no new contracts.

The seed for the second letter was planted by computer programmers in the 1960s. To conserve expensive data storage, program date codes were written with six digits, as in 121565, for December 15, 1965. They didn’t realize they had created the Y2K ticking time bomb.

Around 1995, experts started worrying that when the clock ticked midnight, January 1, 2000, zillions of lines of date-sensitive computer calculations would fail by going back a century – 010100 would be January 1, 1900 – instead of forward to 2000. Consequently, the codes in millions of programs had to be fixed. And by 1998, small businesses started getting letters from their larger customers requesting evidence of their “Y2K compliance” – or no contracts with eight-digit dates.

The third letter was born in the middle of the 20th century, when we started realizing that the solution to pollution was not dilution. Since then, environmental stewardship has evolved from not polluting to sustainability.

Sustainability means doing more with less, including making waste useful – especially water. It’s the right thing to do, but businesses are also learning that sustainability can be profitable and good for public relations.

The sustainability letter hasn’t been sent yet – but it’s coming. Within the next five years, small businesses should expect to hear from big customers about their sustainability plan. And like the quality and Y2K letters, your first motivation will be to keep a customer.

Start thinking about the resources your business uses, including energy, consumables, production waste – especially water. Establish programs for recycling, reusing, conserving, etc., and document your execution. So when you get that first “Sustainability Letter,” you won’t look like a deer in the headlights.

Sustainability is good business, good public relations and good karma.

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