What does a “Sustainability Department” do?

What does a "Sustainability Department" do?

More and more companies are adding “Sustainability managers” or other folks responsible for corporate sustainability activities; sometimes it helps to ask: ” What does a sustainability department do?” Author Daniel Winokur tells us that:
“The goal of a sustainability department is to make the company more sustainable – that is, to help the company ensure its long-term future by protecting communities, restoring and conserving ecosystems, and creating competitive profit.
For some businesses, a small number of modifications may result in an entirely sustainable operation. For others, the path will be longer and more complicated. In either case, the result will be a shift that affects the entire company, similar to integrative concepts like Total Quality Management (TQM). A company’s sustainability department may start projects on its own, but much of its work will be through partnering with other departments and business units. This is because sustainability is not an isolated competency, like marketing or operations can be. Instead, it’s a business mindset applicable to all areas of business activity.
The good news is that your sustainability department does not have to have a full time staff you can add an intern, work with a consultant, make this a “job share” situation, or assign it to a single person. Depending on the size of your company, your initiative can be small or encompass an entire department. Results? Sustainability initiatives can often mean:
    • Lower costs through reduced resource use
    • Reduced risk of backlash / increased access to new locations by community outreach
    • Capital investments in more efficient infrastructure, saving money and resources
    • A more healthy, less wasteful, less toxic, and more pleasant workpalce
    • Monetizing resource use reductions- by trading greenhouse gas credits or selling waste materials or numerous other methods of monetizing
    • Providing input to business units at planning stages to design for financial and environmental efficiency
    • Turing waste streams into revenue streams (not literally waste)
    • Modeling all of the energy and materials flows in and out of a business
    • Studying the life cycle of the value chain