THE ARCHITECTURE OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS
By Laércio Bruno Filho
The following article aims to serve as an additional insight in the debate on the
issue of Sustainable Business and its interfaces.
Architecture: term that comes from the Greek arche - αρχή - meaning "first" or
"principal" and tékton - τέχνη - meaning "construction" and that refers to the art
and technique of designing and building the environment inhabited by humans. In
this sense, architecture is prominently about the organization of space and its
elements: ultimately, architecture deals with any questions of agency, organization,
aesthetics and ordering of components in any state of spatial arrangement.
However, architecture is typically associated directly to the problem of organization
of man in space (especially in urban space ). Source: Wikipedia.
Sustainability: The Brundtland Report (1987), sustainability is "meet the needs of
the present generation without affecting the ability of future generations to meet
theirs." More directly: sustainability is to provide the best (resources?) for people
and the environment both now and for the indefinite future. Source: Wikipedia.
The Architecture of Sustainability is the art of designing and building the
environment inhabited by humans in communion with the 4 dimensions that form
Sustainable Development. The result of this action must create a situation:
1 - ecologically correct;
2 - economically viable;
3 - socially just and
4 - culturally accepted.
In line with these dimensions we will discuss Business Sustainable Architecture.
This will lead us to reflect on how to structure the link between Business Strategy
and Sustainability Policy.
Companies aiming to establish its strategic positioning guided by the incorporation
of values and concepts contained in a policy of sustainability must transmit to its
public an image of effective and concrete that they acting full alignment with the
sustainability principles in all their relationships and clearly showing that this is not
an isolated action, but it is the reference point of their business.
Under this assumption, a comprehensive and inclusive Sustainability Policy can be
designed in accordance with the following model:
The initial step of development should be the full understanding and evaluation of
the existing culture, in a process that will examine the mission and values of the
company, identifying the degree of dedication to social and environmental issues.
Then the Business Plan evaluation, aiming to understand how the business targets
will be achieved in the medium and long term, and the relationship with the
pragmatic dimensions of TBL (triple bottom line). After that the annual results
report (P&L) will must assess where and how the social-environmental actives &
liabilities are allocated, and finally the operational and managerial reports detailing
the production processes, to understand the regularity and the matter reported.
The existence of regular reports concerning the actions of sustainability, or even a
socio-environmental balance, may indicate a path already "cleared" within the
company for the design and implementation of a comprehensive policy pervaded by
crosscutting initiatives. These initiatives correspond to their practical ramifications:
management programs and field projects.
The Sustainability Policy should be created within the environmental, social and
economic dimensions (TBL), and considering that the cultural issue will be
addressed within the social dimension.
Targets should be designed observing the absorption capacity and maturity of the
sustainability culture by the company. This means that there some concrete results
that can be monitored and evaluated already in the short term, by the end of the
first two years. The major part of results should be identified and evaluated in the
medium and long term, from the third year onwards. Results are continuous since
the primordial feature of sustainability is a virtuous cycle that periodically returns to
the beginning to improve goals and objectives.
Considering that those three dimensions are concurrent, a variety of crosscutting
initiatives can coexist at the same time. The following paragraphs comment on
some of these initiatives:
- Energy Management: actions to review strategies and redesign processes that
may result on adoption of initiatives optimizing the use of energy. An intense
energy usage requires a great amount of water resources, and flooded land that
means additional money and environmental costs and additional GHG emissions
(when addressing thermoelectric energy). So rationalizing its usage is primarily
important for all.
- Waste Management: adoption of initiatives that introduce the best practices in
the treatment of waste residues generated before, during and after productive
processes. Collection, transport and appropriate final disposal can reduce the costs
of the operation and compliance with environmental legislation, and contribute to
the preservation of natural resources.
- Water Management: Water is a limited and expensive resource. Some actions
can reduce its usage and cost, for example, the deployment of sewage treatment
stations, the capture and use of rainwater, the reuse of water, the adoption of more
efficient equipment like taps and valves for sanitary vessels, and the creation and
implementation of methods and indicators measuring accurately the amount of
water resources used in production processes. Recent studies of life-cycle analysis
(LCA) indicate that water resources are spent much more than we imagine and that
these resources are improperly accounted for in the costing of products.
- Management of the GHG emissions (gases that cause the greenhouse effect
resulting in global warming of the planet): developing the inventory and
management of the reduction of GHG emissions. These can be developed through
the revision or improvement of industrial processes and are monitored by specific
methodologies adopted by the UNFCCC. These projects are known as Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) project activities, and projects of Joint
Implementation (JI, mostly generated in Europe), Voluntary Carbon Standard (
VCS), projects for Reductions of Emissions by Deforestation in Developing
Countries (REDD) or offset project for the Chicago Stock Exchange (CCX). These
activities can generate environmental assets called carbon credits with high value
added and which are tradable in futures and spot markets, creating additional
revenue for companies that implement them.
- Stakeholder Management: the social agenda of sustainability.
The following can be considered stakeholders in the framework of a project:
communities, neighborhood associations, legal groups, public prosecutors, religious
associations, schools and universities, employees of the company, shareholders,
consumers, suppliers, just to name some of them.
Several initiatives can be designed and implemented in this area.
For the Internal Public: benefits such as creation and adoption of policies for
remuneration and recognition, career plans, health-care assistance, support for
professional specialization and upgrading.
For the external public: creation of strategies and actions for the dissemination of
concepts and best practices of sustainability. For example, enabling the
surrounding communities, suppliers and consumers to deal with issues such as
consumption, conservation and utilization of natural resources, environmental
impacts, and appropriate disposal of waste and citizenship practices.
Internally in the company the satisfaction of employees in participating in these
initiatives becomes perceptible. These are factors that increase the individual and
collective productivity and entail a competitive differential for the company and
- Corporate Governance: adoption of an integrated set of key indicators that aim
to give a transparent and accessible representation of the business performance. It
is guided by ethical attitudes and concrete sustainable actions.
In practice is supported by a set of operational and managerial indicators that
permeate the company, in a crosscutting action, showing the actual involvement
with economic, social and environmental issues.
Some indexes such as ISE- Indice de Sustentabilidade Empresarial, DJSI-Down
Jones Sustainability Index aggregate companies that meet the sustainability pre-
requirements, thus contributing real value for them.
- Green IT: social and environmental initiatives implemented in the IT area, which
are aimed to reduce materials and natural resources consumption.
The operational flows are generally optimized through reassessment and redesign,
reducing entire processes and the resources utilized in these, while increasing the
level of usage of some equipment such as Servers. This may result a significant
reduction of operational costs or even cutting off financial resources on future
Alternatives such as adoption of more efficient software solutions (power-
management or mapping of heat in datacenters) or hardware (faster
microprocessors), can offer lower power consumption and also reduction of
The implementation and improvement of actions for technology waste recycling or
environmental criteria for purchasing new electronic equipment (EPEAT) are also
alternatives well known and already in use.
With the implementation of some of these actions is possible to identify savings
opportunities from the reduction of materials and equipments usage, like paper,
printer ink , Toner, hardware, software and natural resources as energy and water.
The environmental benefits could include reducing GHG emissions, the preservation
of forests, rivers and lakes, improvement of air quality, reduction of areas for
landfills. In addition to social benefits like generation of new jobs, retraining of
professionals, creating new technologies and services.
– The Market Communication Plan : The communication plan is a vehicle for
interaction and information between the company and its markets.
The formal position of the company towards the market is expressed by the
presentation of the Sustainability Report in specific periods, disseminating the
regularity and continuity of its sustainability policy and, in addition, through
advertising campaigns and marketing.
The communication plan will contribute directly so that the market, which is
represented by all the stakeholders, understands the created social and economic
values and encourages the committed companies to the continuity of its actions.
The Success in adopting the policy of sustainability, as a strategic direction,
contributes with real value for the products, the company, individuals and finally to
the community that recognizes and rewards it.
The great reward for the company will be the preference awarded by the market. At
the moment of purchase the product that presents the lowest "socio-environmental
footprint" in its label will be chosen to be purchased. This will bring real value
added for the company and will contribute to its continuity and permanence in the
market, creating a continuous virtuous circle.
The biggest award will be even the more effective contribution to the
preservation of the planet and the quality of life of future generations.