Building a sustainable company: What do I want to be when I grow up?
By Justin Yuen
When you were a kid, do you remember being asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? After getting asked a few times, did you learn to answer astronaut, actor, basketball player, or even the president? Then, did you spend even more time being that person when you played with friends? Well, building a sustainable company through long term visioning and backcasting is a very similar process.
Why would you want to do this? In my case, it first started in the early days of working on sustainability at Nike when I wanted to be more strategic and go deeper with business integration. With FMYI, it was when we wanted shift from our opportunistic approach to sustainability to a more comprehensive, proactive, and holistic approach. The important thing to remember is that when it comes time to change, it's important to think about where you're going (establishing a vision), and create a process to get you there (backcasting). Otherwise, chances are you’ll stay in the same place.
Some other reasons for creating a sustainability vision related to current trends include responding to customer requests for more information on your commitment, the ideas that come out of going through a certification program like the City of Portland’s Climate Champions, or B Labs' B Corporation, a desire to reduce costs through eco-efficiency, or even workplace trends involving retention, flexibility, and engaging younger workers.
When you move forward with your visioning process, it’s important to set a date for the vision. At FMYI, we focused in on 2020, leveraged data we had gathered from a variety of stakeholders for a sustainable brand survey, held our visioning session in a creative space outside our office, made use of a facilitator, and backcasted to start developing a list of steps needed to achieve the vision.
Justin Yuen is President of FMYI [for my innovation], a collaboration software company with a sustainability commitment.
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