Hurricane Sandy and the Lexicon of Sustainability

It’s been a tough  week.  I lost 24 hours of it to Sandy. But when my power came back on and I switched on the TV I was able to see just how lucky I had been – dark for only 24 hours and no damage of flooding. The photo is of the New Jersey home of a friend and colleague from BT who was less fortunate.   Luckily no one was hurt.

The range of potential and actual corporate responses we are seeing to the storm is an informative way to distinguish the lexicon of our sustainability landscape.  A little tongue in cheek perhaps but here goes….

  • The philanthropic response – make a financial donation and a donation of goods and services to a prominent disaster response charity.
  • The employee engagement response – encourage employees to collect canned goods and volunteer repainting damaged houses.
  • The health and safety response – make sure every employee is accounted for.
  • The resiliency response – implement the back-up plan for the data centre that just lost power.
  • The climate change mitigation response – accelerate the solar panel rollout.
  • The climate change adaptation response – for goodness sake don’t build our next factory there, put it on a hill somewhere further inland.
  • Creating shared value response – design a new service to help customers reduce their carbon emissions.
  • The environmentalists response – investigate if Sandy was the result of anthropomorphic climate change or natural weather variation.
  • The enlightened CFO’s response – what did this one cost us and how much less will it cost us to mitigate the risk?

Which is the right one? All of them of course. Corporate responsibility is not one thing that happens in one place in the corporation.  It must be integrated throughout the business.


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