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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : July/Aug 2003 : Headlines

Headlines

What Would You Do?
A unique new e-tutorial helps employees close the gap between policy and practice.

Headlines

Whether at the bottom or the top of the corporate ladder, professionals can now quickly and easily test and enhance their understanding of sustainability issues, thanks to a unique electronic tutorial on the business case for sustainable development launched by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the University of Cambridge Programme for Industry (CPI).

Accessible on the Internet (www.sdchronos.org), Chronos® is designed to make sustainable development relevant and meaningful to the everyday practice of employees, equipping them with the knowledge to deliver on corporate priorities. It is especially timely following the World Summit in Johannesburg last September, which reaffirmed the role of business as a key partner for achieving sustainable development. Its name was taken from the Greek word “khronos,” which means time, because long-term thinking is important to sustainable development.

“Companies are now being called upon to demonstrate and apply sustainable development practices across their operations,” said WBCSD president Björn Stigson. “Chronos provides companies with a unique opportunity to make sustainable development relevant to individual employees and close the gap between policy and practice.”

Many Fortune 500 companies now recognize the value of sustainable development, yet few have managed to make it part of their everyday thinking and practice. A sound sustainable development strategy can: create business value; improve the financial performance of a company; reduce operating costs; enhance brand image and reputation; increase productivity; and contribute to the welfare of society and the environment.

“Over the past decade, sustainable development has become a familiar term in the business community,” explained Jake Reynolds, assistant director at Cambridge Programme for Industry. “But many companies are still grappling with what it really means, and how to make it part of their core business strategy. By placing the users at the center of the learning experience, Chronos allows them to understand the topic for themselves, as well as refine their problem-solving skills.”

Chronos supports different learning styles and encourages reflection on personal experiences and experimentation with different options. “E-learning gives us the opportunity to deliver an outstanding learning experience to thousands of people on one of the most important topics in business today,” said Margaret Flaherty, the WBCSD’s director of capacity building. “Chronos is a great way to get people engaged and motivated to work toward sustainable development.”

In fact, the success of Chronos will be judged by the degree of reflection it causes among employees; the number of conversations it inspires; and the amount of enthusiasm it creates for exploration and action on sustainable development. It is a short exercise providing the foundation for further layers of learning about sustainable development. It is also versatile, and can be blended with other learning initiatives inside the company and used to reinforce the company’s principles, policies and practices. Chronos is presented in six sections; each of which is divided into smaller topics:

Welcome: This section contains a set of activities for people new to the topic of sustainable development. A personal message is included from Sir Philip Watts KCMG, chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of companies and chairman of the WBCSD.

You and Your World: This section concerns attitudes and behaviors toward the environment and the people across the world who sustain our lives. It includes two eye-opening accounts about the environmental and social impacts of the products most probably sitting on everyone’s desks. Users are encouraged to reflect upon their reactions to the stories, and what lies behind them. The role of values and thinking styles in guiding a person’s behavior is explored. Users also have an opportunity to analyze their own sensitivity toward environmental and social concerns; their answers to a series of thought-provoking questions suggest what those values might be.

You’re in Charge: This section develops strategic thinking, judgment and problem-solving skills by placing users into a series of challenging situations—and asking them to decide what to do. In a real-life situation, is it possible to satisfy the interests of all stakeholder groups? Or must compromises be made? Users are introduced to some general sustainable development principles to assist with decision-making.

Making the Case: Not everyone has seen the potential of sustainable development. This section helps recognize the many ways in which sustainability and profitability intertwine. Most would agree we need to tackle issues like poverty and global warming, but to many the role of business is unclear. This section looks at the many arguments in favor of a positive approach by business.

Making it Happen: Sustainable development concerns innovation, change and profitability every bit as much as risk avoidance. In this section users are encouraged to develop a new perspective on how their company can make the most of the opportunity. They can evaluate three critical aspects of their company—its social, economic and environmental performance—and discover how to help make it more sustainable by identifying priorities areas for action. A user’s personal sources of influence in the company are explored alongside a four-step planning tool.

Moving On: This section contains some final pointers to support a user’s next move. Additionally, it closes with a message from Lise Kingo, executive vice president of Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s leading sustainable business practitioners.

Although Chronos has been designed to meet the needs of a broad business audience, many aspects of the product are open to customization. For example, it can be translated into different languages or modified to meet the needs of different sectors, job functions or themes. It can also be customized to the needs of an individual company.


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