Bob Dylan thinks your sustainability is questionable at best

6 months ago

The famous Bob Dylan song, “The times they are a-changin’,” has seemingly prophetic lyrics that can be applied to the state of modern business practices—so accurately that it borders on the scary. And, as the song goes on to describe how “Your old road is rapidly agin’,” the message is clear: businesses of all types need to create a new, more sustainable path to success or be left behind.

In the new millennium, being good at what you do is no longer good enough—you must also be great at doing it the right way.

It’s with this new paradigm that you and your organization must embrace not only the concepts and surrounding hot-button topics like diversity, transparency, and sustainability, but also you must live and breathe it, measure it, and ultimately manage it. Despite their non-technical status, these non-tangible elements will dramatically impact your ability to function.

Demands are also changing, and when it comes to failing to meet those demands, the stakes are higher than ever before. Ask your shareholders. Ask the media. Ask investors, particularly as we move forward into an investment era soon to be dominated by millennials and other young money.

Simply put, we live in a new world—one where viral communication dominates our every move. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on, we have unprecedented connectivity, giving us all the power to create news, real or fake, and to spread that news around the world in mere seconds.

And it’s this viral connectivity that defines the lasting effects of a crisis because, to put it bluntly, the internet never forgets … and rarely forgives: because individuals anywhere and everywhere can buy affordable handheld megaphones to amplify their personal soapboxes. Because your competition is more plugged in than ever before and will be ready if you stumble. And because the internet can be controlled by anyone who has the budget, the talent, the desire, and the nefarious background—just ask the Ukraine.

But to be crystal clear, this isn’t fear-mongering, but rather a simple acknowledgment of the new status quo. And despite the challenges of our new digital age, the need to effectively pursue sustainable operations remains unchanged.

Therefore, the question becomes: how does one embrace these new challenges?

First, the volume and velocity of data has created constant noise that can be hard to navigate. This means it can be difficult to get the right information—the information you need. Finding a partner who specializes in obtaining and managing that data effectively will be increasingly important—it’s the only way to mitigate and combat ever-present risks.

Secondly, though the world has gone digital, let’s not forget that it’s people who still matter the most. Failing to understand how people feel about your operations, and how they are likely to behave as a result, can have lasting consequences. Being able to connect with and understand everyone involved is critical.

And lastly, organizations are engaging in solutions that continually leave money on the table. Even when they’re committed to doing things the right way, their efforts are limited by resource constraints, lack of integration and coordination, or failure to capitalize on efficiencies and opportunities. Being able to fix those challenges can fund other important business goals—you know, such as points one and two. 😉

The important lesson here is that sustainability is only a means to an end. Achieving sustainability allows longer-term, successful operations that are better able to adapt to changes. Having the right data and knowing how to use it. Understanding public perception and attitudes. Creating shared value. These address the critical gaps that all too often cause sustainability investments and initiatives to suffer.

Or, as Bob Dylan puts it: “And admit that the waters around you have grown. And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.”