Sustainability and Green Business
Case Analysis: Integrating Vision and Tools at Norm Thompson Outfitters
Although this case gives the impression that Norm Thompson’s commitment to its sustainability strategy has produced measurable progress, I can clearly identify several issues throughout the case. One of the issues is the organization’s definition of sustainability as an intersection of a healthy economy, healthy environment and a healthy society. The definition is quite ambiguous since it only illustrates interactions of the economy, environment and society spheres only. The other issue is that the leadership of the company failed in setting up specific sustainability targets that would have made the organization to realize sustainability goals easily. This is illustrated by the ‘’bottom up’’ approach that they applied for generating 192 suggestions on how to enhance the functions of the company, some of which were not of importance. Another issue is the failure by the company to prioritize its sustainability goals, even after identification of its corporate offices, call centers, distribution centers, sales and marketing activities and catalogers as its key contributors to its environmental footprint. The other issue is that Norm Thompson’s strategy of attaining sustainability was not well planned. The company began building its ‘’green building’’ without first looking into the level of employees’ sustainability awareness. It is only after completion of the headquarters building that the company realized that its leadership and employees did not possess the basis for integration of sustainability into decision making with regards to its business operations.
Another issue is the belief by the company that internal resources were not capable of supporting the implementation of its sustainability strategy while making sure that its internal education process is continuous. This made them to hire a full time manager from the external environment of the organization to oversee the implementation of the sustainability strategy. The next issue is Norm Thompson’s green supply strategy of establishment of mutually valuable partnership with suppliers. Even though the company persuaded its suppliers to comply with its core sustainability values, it had little influence over the buyers on the products to acquire. The final issue is related to the company’s measurable progress in terms of their commitment to sustainability. Although the company has increased sustainability awareness among its suppliers and customers, the company is faced with significant challenges in its own operations, which impairs its ability to influence other players in the industry to adopt such sustainability strategies. Such challenges might reduce its sustainability commitments as long term strategy.
An alternative solution to the definition of Norm Thompson would not have been to formulate it in such a way that makes sustainability an attractive objective to be achieved, instead of just a state of healthy interactions between the economy, environment and the society. The second issue would have been solved through the ‘’top down’’ approach in order to help in identifying the most important strategies that the company would have implemented in order to enhance the realization of sustainability. The leadership would have given employees a direction, through identifying few, but the most important goals to be accomplished. It is the duty of the leaders to provide employees with directives on the outlined organizational goals. The next solution is that the company would have ranked its priority areas for dealing with the major contributors to its environmental footprint. The employees should be addressed with a direction for the organization. The solution for its uncoordinated implementation of the sustainability was developing a comprehensive and well-planned sustainability strategy before embarking on its implementation, like building the ‘’green’’ headquarters building.
Instead of hiring an external sustainability manager with very little understanding of the culture of the company, the leadership would have empowered its employees using the available resources since they have a better understanding of the organizational culture. The hiring of the outsider might have slowed down the implementation of the business plan and goals of the company. The solution for the green supply chain strategy would have been realized is the company put in place, a comprehensive strategy across its supply chain. Apart from conducting internal reinforcement of the catalog change, the company would have persuaded buyers of the benefits of its sustainability strategy by enhancing its catalog offering as a means of transferring the value to end consumers. The alternative solution for the long term commitment to sustainability strategy is reviewing and sharing its short term gains with the business community to give them an assurance that the strategy is worth pursuing.
Analysis of Solutions
|Sustainability definition||· Will make sustainability a valuable goal worth pursuing||· Sustainability will be perceived as a strategy to solve future needs rather than present|
|Top-down approach||· The leadership’s directive would fasten implementation of sustainability||· Employees may not feel as being part of sustainability implementation, thus less motivation|
|Priority ranking||· Major contributors to its environmental footprint would have been addressed first||· Emerging but quite serious sustainability issues cannot be addressed on time|
|Well planned sustainability strategy||· Coordinated and systematic implementation of sustainability strategy· Sustainability integrated into the company’s goals and core values||· Time consuming, may address urgent sustainability issues|
|Internal solutions to sustainability||· Manage sustainability using readily available internal resources· Empowering employees from within· Save time and money||· Longer time in establishing appropriate resources and personnel· Limited internal capacity to manage sustainability|
|Enhanced partnership in green supply chain strategy||· Suppliers and customers fully aware of the sustainability core values||· Market dynamics might affect the formulation of comprehensive green supply chain strategy|
|Sharing measurable progress||· Improves sustainability commitment to both the company and the business community||· Slow but measurable progress may reduce commitment to sustainability|
My recommendations for the issues are a combination of my solutions and those presented in the case. Foremost, I believe that the formulation of a definition of sustainability that is attractive and engaging, like benefits to the future generations, will make it a valuable goal to pursue. Besides, the company’s leadership could have used the top-down approach for fastening its sustainability implementation. The Bottom up approach is only effective in evaluation of the success of implementation. The company could have given priority to its sustainability goals so as to first deal with pressing matters related to its environmental footprint. Before embarking on the sustainability initiative, the company could have come up with a comprehensive sustainability strategy that incorporates sustainability into its goals and values. The company made the right move by hiring a professional sustainability manager from the external environment to ensure objective implementation of the strategy. I think that the company pursued the right partnership strategy for enhancing its green supply chain strategy with suppliers. However, the value of partnership could have been shared with customers through the improvement of its catalog offerings. The company could have shared its measurable progress with employees and business community to enhance their respective commitment to sustainability.