Monday, October 31, 2011

Total Green Management

The future of Green Movement based on parallels with Quality movement.

Tracing the history of Quality movement and the trajectory of Green movement, one cannot help but spot similarities. The reactive approach of inspection was the starting point for quality movement. Similar to carbon footprint measurement that heralded the Green movement. Inspection gave way to proactive quality control approach in critical areas like production. Green movement has been following similar path whereby companies are proactively working on reducing carbon footprint of key areas like factory operations, logistics etc.

Hence, going forward, one can predict that the stage is set for 'Total Green Management' on the lines of 'Total Quality Management' which was the next and defining phase in quality movement. Total Quality Management talked about all-pervasive quality which is responsibility of everyone and applies to all activities in an organization. In similar way, going Green and environmental responsibility should be evident in all activities and not confined to a particular department.

One may ask if we can really equate Quality and Green? Both Quality and Green are those attributes which concern stakeholders (customers, society, govt. and others). Time for Quality came when customers' concerns regarding product quality gained prominence. Now is the time for Green when customers and other stakeholders like society and Govt. have been expressing serious concerns. Due to stakeholders’ pressure, like Quality, Green is also on the trajectory of becoming a business essential. And soon, like quality, Green will be also expected to be in-grained in all organizational activities. The touch points would expand to Product Development, Supply Chain, Supporting Systems and Processes, Enterprise Assets and other areas. Today, many companies would claim to be doing so already. A litmus test to verify their claims is to check whether Green reflects in every employee’s monthly/quarterly goal setting. Unless that happens, Green has not really become all-pervasive. A separate body running organization-wide Green initiatives cannot qualify under Total Green Management.

Today, Green is a top-down with senior management driving Green initiatives. Total Green Management is bottom up. Lower rung employees are to be encouraged and empowered to initiate Continuous Green improvements similar to what they do for Continuous Quality improvement through Kaizens, Quality circles etc. Then only one can achieve Total Green Management in spirit.

Today Green is caught in same dilemma as 'Optimum Quality' of the past. Organizations are trying to figure out ‘Optimum Green Effort’ where the costs of Green initiatives intersects the costs of avoidance like litigation costs, carbon tax, brand image risks etc (Depicted in figure below). This optimum point may as well turn out to be an illusion considering following factors:
- Negative externalities like environmental degradation, societal activism and legislation are not going to allow costs of avoiding Green initiatives tapering off dramatically.
- At the same time, the fact that most Green initiatives generate energy, fuel and cost savings, the cost of Green efforts will reduce.

Both effects combined, the optimum intersection point may never be reached similar to what had been realized for Quality (Depicted in figure below). The total cost will only decrease with increasing Green effort.

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