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Harry Hertz

Sustainability

Can We Ignore Climate Change?

A compelling case for including more about climate change in 2015–2016 Baldrige revisions

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 15:14

 

Last month the quadrennial U.S. National Climate Assessment was issued. Although the report is 840 pages long, the conclusion is clear. It is stated in the very first sentence: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present.”

Although climate change is covered in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence as part of societal responsibilities, we have struggled with the more comprehensive inclusion of climate change and environmental sustainability. Recently, I read a Harvard Business Review blog post by Andrew Winston that made a compelling case for including more about climate change in the 2015–2016 revisions to the Baldrige Criteria. Although some businesses have a greater opportunity to contribute to eliminating the sources of climate change, Winston points out that no organization is immune to its effects.

Winston’s comments caused me to think more about the universal impacts of climate change. The argument in my mind goes something like this: We can all expect to experience the effects of climate change. This is true of all types and sizes of businesses, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and even families. How do we deal with increasingly severe storms, massive snows, flooding, and power outages? These events potentially affect supply chains for businesses, whether we manufacture products or provide services. Extreme weather events can affect our ability to work, the productivity of our organizations, our ability to move around, and even our home energy and food supply chains. These events increase the need for aid from social services and government agencies. And all of this is independent of whether one is a major consumer of energy, producer of goods and their side products, in the middle of a supply chain, or just a household consumer of goods and services.

For all of us climate change is about managing risk, making choices, building acceptable redundancies and alternatives into our management systems, and at the same time not creating overcapacity and wasteful systems. It is about trade-offs and sustainability, from an environmental, business, societal, and even personal perspective. It is about support for our communities and their citizens.

From a Baldrige Criteria perspective, climate change can impact strategic decisions and operations management. It is about workforce capabilities and capacity, and worker protection. It is about financial sustainability of the organization and societal responsibility.

Can we ignore this perspective in revising the Baldrige Criteria? I think not. Let me know your opinion.

First published May 20, 2014, on Blogrige.

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About The Author

Harry Hertz’s picture

Harry Hertz

 Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where he served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the Advisory Group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.