Success with Social Sustainability

Success with Social Sustainability

By Billy Ingram, Director, Lean Product Development, Interface

Billy Ingram, Director, Lean Product Development, Interface

Social Sustainability

Sustainability has three distinct parts which are social, economic and environmental, but the social aspect is the one which is the least used and most overlooked because it is the least understood. Most professionals are least equipped to work on the social aspect because of the lack of practical tools, and an effective social sustainability methodology. In business, it is people who come up with ideas, collaborate and execute operations. Every one of these behaviors is socially oriented. Interface has collaborated with the SHERPA Sustainability Institute to learn this methodology. The institute has designed a rigorous methodology called CISR (includes SOFAIR method) for improving social responsibility performance, introduced in the textbook, "A Six Sigma Approach to Sustainability." Focusing on social sustainability we provide tools to engineers and CIOs enabling them to positively impact individuals, projects, and ultimately the whole organization.

"We follow a more holistic and socially inclusive evolution of the DMAIC model"

Attaining Social Sustainability

Social aspects like culture have an abstract element to them which requires conversion into an algorithm or tool to be provided to practitioners. For this purpose, we utilize many of the same lean and six sigma tools that other practitioners use, but in a slightly modified way. Many people incorrectly consider stakeholder engagement as customer focus. A stakeholder is everybody from the people at the factory, the employee’s family, and the community, including customers and competitors. The best chance for organizational success is to have as many stakeholders as possible aligned with an organization’s ideas and projects. This requires identification of stakeholders to be included early in the project. Completing research of their wants and needs, and their potential impact on the project is very important. Project funding, engagement of opinion leaders and the creation of a communication plan are also important in creating influence and executing solutions which will move an organization forward. Working with Holly and Andrea from the SHERPA Sustainability Institute shed light on the social aspect of Six Sigma with its Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC) model, lean manufacturing, and stakeholder engagement. These tools impact social responsibility and improve business performance when applied using the SOFAIR methodology.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is a really powerful tool for solving social issues. With nearly three decades of operations and product development experience, I've done a lot of different things. However it is appealing to enable people to engage and integrate these principles of their own accord. Meaningful dialogue around social issues and social aspects of a project is similar to value stream and process mapping. During the process of stakeholder engagement everybody learns about the needs of the other person and how their needs intertwine. This provides a platform and productive means to moves forward. The ISO 26000 and AA1000 guidelines provide models for best practices. For stakeholders, a simple and visual stakeholder map is the place to start. Then we study and identify stakeholder’s needs and the risks associated with each. In short, we follow a more holistic and socially inclusive evolution of the DMAIC model. Following these steps has improved inclusion and increased diversity in decision making. Many companies don't have good contact with the community or local action groups and vice versa, not because they do not want it but due to lack of a good engagement methodology.

Technology Impacting Understanding of Social Sustainability

Interface is learning from European models with stakeholder engagement expertise, and they are learning from us as well. I'm currently coaching an individual from Sweden, for a practitioner course who is very knowledgeable of stakeholder engagement but he has never actually applied lean, six sigma and stakeholder engagement together. The SOFAIR methodology is the only one that combines these principles holistically to create positive change in social responsibility. Leveraging influence to improve issues such as abuse of women in Africa and creation of the microloans in India has been beneficial to people. Interface is trying to use this type of methodology and influence to change stakeholder behavior. It's really about designing a well understood and concise approach that can be applied to encourage behaviors that are good while eliminating those that are bad for the organization.

Future Relevance of Social Sustainability

People with training and understanding about how to engage social aspects in a project are going to be well positioned to take advantage of innovative new technology and advance their organizations and themselves in the future. Passionately engaged people willing to do what it takes to ensure the success of their project and organization will be in high demand. Ten years from now those who don't understand stakeholder engagement and the impact of social sustainability methodology are going to be trailing at best and non-existent at worst. Therefore, stakeholder engagement training is highly recommended for anyone who wants to improve their chance for success. Utilization of the right tools on the most needed projects with the most engaged stakeholders involved will lead to an organization’s success.

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