March 19, 2013
Sustainability continues to be a hot topic for business and associations alike. But many have used sustainability as just material for marketing campaigns. Sustainability is so much more than that. For associations, it can play a crucial role in the overall positioning of the association towards policy makers and other stakeholders. In Europe we have seen that more and more horizontal policies are issued which look into raw materials, resource efficiency and the overall sustainability of production, among other issues. Many associations are definitely interested in pursuing sustainability, especially with the increased activity in policy initiatives.
There are various tools and approaches for promoting sustainability in a particular industry. These include:
- Developing sustainability reports on the industry sector
- Conducting specific studies looking into the end-of-life of products
- Releasing information targeted to the consumer on how to use products in the most efficient way
- Publishing information on raw materials supply
- Conducting Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs)
It is important however that your association does not look into sustainability just for the sake of ticking the box. These initiatives should be part of the overall association’s strategy since it will be beneficial in the overall positioning of the organization and the sector it represents. The information which is gathered can be very relevant in discussions with the legislators and NGOs, especially regarding impact assessments. In addition, information on sustainability would allow your members to even better understand their products and their impacts. From a member point of view, the advantage of an association looking into sustainability is that it can bear the cost of studies which a smaller member company would not be able to fund on its own.
The benefits of focusing on sustainability are great, but at the same time, it will also require a commitment to make the necessary resources available – both time and money – since studies such as LCAs and end-of-life measurement come at a cost.
To conclude, it is worthwhile for an association to expand its activities towards sustainability but it should be done in an integrated way and be underbuilt with the necessary resources.