As we break down the various components of sustainability, or better, how your company can achieve its sustainable goals, how you invest in the concept is key to the success. Intellectual capital alone will not get you to those goals. Focusing solely on natural capital, the gain achieved for your business by offsetting the impact of the environment against the money spent moves you closer to understanding the full accounting cost of zero waste. However, your company’s social performance matters. But how do you measure social accounting, track it or explain it to the P&L?
What is Social Accounting?
Every aspect of Zero Waste is focused on a long-term outcome. Most business owners will agree that no matter how well-intentioned or even critically urgent they perceive the goal, they cannot implement a full turnaround in a quarter or two. In many cases, the time frame to complete a Zero Waste goal is often agonizingly long, outlasting the architects of the plan. This simply means that the vision needs to outlast the current stakeholders and have the buy-in to withstand the test of time.
Non-profits and governmental organizations will have a much easier time outlining the necessity of improving social and environmental aspects of their stakeholder’s lives and perhaps an easier path to achieve measurable success. This is the essential nature of their charters.
This sort of goal is much more difficult in a for-profit situation where performance is judged in short(er) segments of time. The dynamic is unlikely to change unless the company controllers can quantify the social performance of the business – and why it matters.
Calculating Social Capital
Simply declaring a zero waste goal as part of a revised mission statement is noble and will net short-term “social” gains. It is often more difficult to maintain those goals should some other aspect of the business underperform. If accounting is designed to be rooted in fairness and truthfulness and ultimately, completeness, the normal financial activity of a business can be forgiven for its inability to audit what seems to be less-grounded in fact. Attestation has ground rules of its own.
Here’s the problem: Social auditing is rarely produced internally. It may be a compilation of inputs from various external organizations, stakeholders/investors and even customers/employees concerned about how your company interacts with the world around you. Add to that, the liquid nature of social accountability needs to be understood. In other words, what you know now, or at the moment when your social goals are created, are not what might be measured several months or years from now.
While this is problematic, it is not the only issue confronting a business looking to achieve external social accountability and tap the reservoir of social capital within it own walls.
Three Things to Consider
- Embrace Social Reporting. This is a voluntary activity that must be grown organically from within and expanded, either boisterously or silently. Either way, a company will admit to its importance while taking an experimental stand. This will squarely place “good intentions” on the right path even if the timeline is not firmly set. It will give your financial team something tangible to explore and begin to quantify.
- Sine Qua Non. Once your business embraces the how, it is vital that it also embrace the why. Clarity creates the systematic approach and that should bring your social accountability closer to the completeness and integrity needed to pass whatever social audit conducted.
- Experiment. This is probably the most difficult aspect of the process. Businesses are adept at slowly ramping up new initiatives, even if they appear to be urgent. What they are not good at is changing direction. However, the path to zero waste and the social accounting of the process will require more than a set-it-and-forget-it.
How We Can Help
Your business does not need to reinvent the wheel in order to get to your zero waste goals. And don’t believe any consultant who suggests you do. Zero Waste Consultants understands this – we’ve been there – and will work with your company to gradually move the needle using all of the available partnerships (governmental and community-based), internal communication (engagement of employees) and capital appropriation to its most profitable result. We can act as the go-between, the arbiter of your best intentions and provide the oversight your company needs to get the most from your social accounting.
The bridge we offer your business is unique in the industry. We will bring your interests, your internal and external resources and your contractors into alignment to achieve your sustainable goals. When you make the decision to move forward: We should talk.