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Collective Heroics: The Next Phase of the Sustainability RevolutionDr Kevin J. Dooley, Academic Director, The Sustainability ConsortiumProfessor of Supply Chain Management, Arizona State University If you are reading this article, it probably means you are interested or even passionate about sustainability. Now get ready, because it is time for the next phase of the Sustainability Revolution.The sustainability revolution in business has made great strides over the last decade. Many organisations have implemented processes and technologies that have reduced environmental impacts, improved the well being of workers and communities, and have reduced operating costs. Many have discovered green consumers who use their pocketbook to demand more sustainable products and services, and others have been inspired by leaders who have personally embraced the values of sustainability.These heroic individual efforts have taken many forms. For example, the university where I work, Arizona State University, has implemented a wide variety of sustainability practices over the last decade. We have created the largest solar installation of any US university, implemented rigorous green purchasing standards, involved students in recycling programmes, and created courses and degrees in sustainability - all leading to a better experience for students and more efficient operations.The world has also made progress, albeit slower than desired, on many critical sustainability issues. Many businesses are keenly aware of the risks associated with climate change and water scarcity, especially those with supply chains that have been disrupted by their effects already. NGOs have brought attention to issues such as deforestation, over-fishing, biodiversity, land use, worker safety and rights, and community health, and many companies have responded by working with NGOs on interventions and investments.In sum, this past decade's progress has been driven by individual heroics on individual issues. This has brought quick wins because there are a lot of "low hanging fruit" to address. We live in a complex system, however, and in order to improve a complex system you have to deal with the interdependencies in the system and seek synergies. The Decade Ahead - A Time for Collective HeroicsImagine that you and twenty of your neighbours decide you want to go to the beach together. There is a big bus available that could take all of you comfortably there at the same time, but instead you and everyone else decide to drive to the park alone. You get to take your own route and listen to your own music, but think of the collective waste of time and energy caused by the group going its own way - even though they were all going to the same place.As silly as the scenario seems, it describes the state of many sustainability efforts today, with individual organisations going their own way, and issues being addressed one at a time. Emerging, however, is the recognition that since we are all heading in the same direction, there is reason to get on the same bus and go there together. Progress in this decade will come because of this collectivism, because collectives that have a shared purpose can be smarter, act quicker, be more adaptive, and achieve more with fewer resources. It is swarm intelligence.Collective heroics are starting. Organisations are reaching out to their supply chain partners to collaborate on sustainable innovations, and collaborating with NGOs and government stakeholders "Even competitors are beginning to work together on certain pre-competitive issues where their collective efforts can bring standardisation and thus higher quality and lower costs"114 sustainable business

Pictured: Dr. Kevin Dooleyin order to enhance their capabilities and reach. Even competitors are beginning to work together on certain pre-competitive issues where their collective efforts can bring standardisation and thus higher quality and lower costs. The same type of holistic approach is emerging in the world of sustainability issues too, as activists and experts representing different concerns are working together to make progress in a systemic fashion.The Sustainability Consortium - A Time for Multi-Industry Collaboration The Sustainability Consortium, or TSC, is an organisation of corporate, NGO, government, and academic stakeholders who believe the time is right for collective action and have formed a consortium to drive a new generation of products and supply chains that address today's sustainability imperatives. TSC is doing so by focusing on developing science and tools that enable rigorous and cost-effective measurement and reporting of consumer product sustainability.Sustainability measurement and reporting is a critical component of this next phase of the sustainability revolution. Measurement links strategy to tactics and serves to incentivise - you get what you measure. Reporting creates a framework for conversations between buyers and suppliers of all types, including end consumers, which enables collaboration. Standards for measurement allow tracking of progress and comparison against benchmarks, while standards for reporting drive down the cost of implementation and eliminate redundant efforts.TSC is moving the ball forward on sustainability measurement and reporting in three ways. First, participants within particular industry sectors share current science and expert knowledge about the environmental and social hotspots for a product category, like computer laptops or laundry detergent. Improvement opportunities that address the hotspots are identified and key performance indicators are created, which allow tracking against the improvement opportunities. Second, participants across the different industry sectors develop consensus on the measurement and reporting rules that all sectors will follow in order to standardise efforts. Third, TSC collaborates with other international efforts to ensure harmonisation of approaches across the globe.Next Steps - A Time for You To Explore the BoundariesTake a look outside your organisation - are there competitors or supply chain partners or NGOs or subject matter experts that you can engage to take collective action on sustainability? If all your neighbours are going to the same place, is not it time to hop on the same bus together? The next great successes of the business and sustainability revolution await those who want to work together to make it happen. nABOUT THE AUTHORDr Kevin Dooley is a Professor of Supply Chain Management, and a Dean's Council of 100 Distinguished Scholars in the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Dr Dooley is a world-known expert in the application of complexity science to help organisations improve. He has published over 100 research articles and co-authored an award winning book, "Organizational Change and Innovation Processes".About the Sustainability ConsortiumThe Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is an independent organisation of diverse global participants that work collaboratively to build a scientific foundation that drives innovation to improve consumer product sustainability. TSC develops transparent methodologies, tools, and strategies to drive a new generation of products and supply networks that address environmental, social, and economic imperatives. The Sustainability Consortium advocates for a credible, scalable, and transparent process and system. The organisation boasts over 75 members from all corners of business employing over 57 million people and whose combined revenues total over US$1.5 trillion. Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas jointly administer The Sustainability Consortium, with additional operations at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. Learn more at www.sustainabilityconsortium.org / Twitter: follow @TSC_news sustainable business 115