I recently came across a cartoon that satirizes the growing popularity of the word ‘sustainable’. Sustainability is the word on all of our lips. It might even be poised for an upset-win over ‘impact’ in the ‘buzzword of the century’ contest! Everyone is concerned about an organization’s ‘triple bottom line’, its financial, social and environmental performance.
It might be overused, but there is a reason why ‘sustainable’ resonates strongly right now in the development community. With growing problems and shrinking resources we are in urgent need of solutions that have the sticking power – that can outlast shocks and continue to deliver benefits at scale.
For any organization, sustainability is built on three pillars: organizational, operational and financial. Without organizational sustainability you are not going to have the talent and capacity to deliver on the promise. Without operational sustainability you will waste resources and dilute the quality of products and without financial sustainability even your high impact programs can end up on the chopping block.
At Riders, we are constantly thinking about sustainability. As a social enterprise creating a transportation market in the last mile, we know our solution has to last if it is to make sense to our partners. And, of course, none of us can afford to play around with a probability of success when it comes to saving lives.
But what about when improving our sustainability positively impacts on our partners? By focusing on strengthening local capacity, driving efficiency and delivering cost effectiveness, we not only ensure the sustainability of our programs but also transfer that value to our partners. So instead of wasting personnel and money on downtime and expensive repairs, partners can now keep their health services on the move and at lower costs. It helps with their financial and operational sustainability – get it?
Think of it as a ‘ripple-bottom line’. Where the sustainability strategy (double or triple bottom line) goes beyond a single organization to actively strengthen the sustainability of others in the ecosystem. Now that’s a buzzword I’d like to hear more of.