16 January 2009 17:54 [Source: ICIS news]
By Doris de Guzman
“With the economy, a lot of companies are obviously under economic stress and may be less open to new sustainability approaches,” said David Clary, the first chief sustainability officer (CSO) for US specialties firm Albemarle.
With the current low energy prices, people are not as worried as before in sourcing alternative energy, or about energy efficiency, added Clary.
Internal challenges for sustainability management could include getting the attention of stakeholders and business leaders as well as getting resources to move a project forward, said Dawn Rittenhouse, director of US-based chemical giant DuPont’s sustainable development.
“In today’s economy, with revenues down and companies laying off employees, it is a challenge to move the sustainability agenda ahead,” she said.
The first six months of 2009 are expected to be unlike any that many environmental, health and safety (EHS) professionals have ever seen before, according to Peter Cartwright, EHS director of US-based chemical firm Dow Corning.
Even though demand for products may slow, Cartwright noted that the need and commitment to sustainability in products and services are not going to go away.
“Uncertainties in the economic climate means we will likely need to support our customers like never before, with new products and services that match exactly what they need,” said Cartwright.
While the current economic situation is causing a distraction to the sustainability movement, a key value that sustainability management can provide right now, according to DuPont’s Rittenhouse, is to focus on how to help their company by looking at available resources as well as business opportunities in providing sustainable solutions to their customers.
“Sustainability management right now are not in the position where they are getting as much of the corporate leadership’s time, as they are trying to deal with people issues and financial issues, making sure that they have enough money to run the company,” said Roger Thorne, managing partner of Hudson Gain, a New York City-based leadership solutions firm that provides talent acquisition and development services.
Thorne added that sustainability leaders have to find different routes to make an impact as organisations deal with the economic crisis.
“Based on how much attention they are going to get from the senior level leadership, they have to figure out how to make their sustainability strategies work and not take their foot off the gas,” he said.
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