What does corporate sustainability mean, anyway?

There's a new standard brewing that seeks to provide company-level standard for sustainable business practices.

The team at Greener World Media, in collaboration with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Environment group, is working on what they are describing as a global standard for running a sustainable business.

Although there are quite a few other initiatives under way, proposed by various interest groups across corporate operating structures, the brains behind the emerging standard (which doesn't actually have a name yet that I can tell) say the difference is that their framework provides specific best practices for embracing business processes around environmental reporting, supply chain performance metrics, and the like.

This certification will be something that is verified and validated, which is probably where UL Environment's expertise comes in handy. The article describing the standard, which is supposed to be out publicly by the end of 2010, suggests that it will dovetail with other more specific efforts. My guess is that the move to disclose this work now is, in part, intended to draw the interest of other potential partners.

Some of you will probably bemoan the emergence of yet another green business standard. My hope is that it is something akin to the best practices framework that exists for incorporating information technology most effectively into a business' overall operations.

That framework, known as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (aka ITIL), provides best practices around process and management. But ITIL isn't prescriptive in mandating exactly the steps you take to get to a better IT organization.

From my perspective, that's what we need for corporate sustainability: an adaptive framework that provides guidance, takes into account different business models (manufacturing vs. services business) and evolves as it needs to, but doesn't mandate specific actions.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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