Facing Similar Challenges in Business and Local Government

Earlier this month I attended a workshop at Verge DC to discuss the recent Citystates paper by SustainAbility and GreenBiz and sponsored by Ford.

It was a fascinating discussion, including a number of city sustainability practitioners from across in the wider DC metropolitan area.

What struck me the most were the similarities between the challenges faced by city managers and the challenges faced in business.  Here are a few examples:

1)      Short term thinking.  Some of the city representatives referred to the challenges of planning cycles that, at best, align with the time between elections.  Of course we have similar (one might think worse!) challenges in business, meeting the limited time horizon of many investors.

2)      Departmental Silos. A spend in one department results in benefits in another department.   In these days of focus on cost and budget cuts and with the customary management structures in large organizations, it takes creativity and determination to make holistic decisions in government and in business.

3)      Motivating stakeholders to care. Whether civil society with their vote or consumers with their investment and spending power, both government and business are challenged by the difficulty of motivating stakeholders to act in a way that rewards sustainable behavior.

Both reassuring and at the same time worrying to see how similar are these themes. The good news is that we are all trying to address these challenges.

Do you see any other commonalities or differences between the challenges faced by business and government?


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