When Companies Backslide on Sustainability

Bloomington, IN – In the past decade, we have witnessed one company after another announce new sustainability initiatives such as reducing water, fuel, electricity, and waste.

Most are looking for ways to help cut their greenhouse gas emissions and protect our environment. And many are now well-aware that sustainability and efficiency go hand-in-hand, helping to reduce costs.

But we have a problem.

According to a recently released study of five Australian companies involving more than 70 managers, some companies go through three stages of sustainability, with the last stage, dialing back their initiatives.

Here are the three sustainability stages some companies travel through:

Framing. This is when senior management believes strongly in adopting corporate sustainability initiatives.

Localizing. This is when the initiatives are actually put into place.

Normalizing. When the sustainability program is placed on the back burner.

“There are many reasons why ‘normalizing’ happens,” according to Stephen Ashkin President, of the Ashkin Group, and a leading advocate for sustainability in the facility management, cleaning, and distribution industries. “One of the most common is when there is a change of leadership at the top.”

Other reasons, Ashkin adds, may include the following:

  • The company is experiencing financial difficulties
  • It is prioritizing other initiatives not related to sustainability
  • The firm has not been able to accomplish its sustainability goals or enjoyed the cost savings they had expected

“Sometimes companies do not realize how well they are doing because they do not have benchmarks or do not have an effective way to measure their accomplishments,” says Ashkin.

“Companies must have key performance indicators (KPIs). When they see their KPI progress and the cost savings that result, invariably they put even more sustainability initiatives into place.”


About the Research: “An Inconvenient Truth: How Organizations Translate Climate Change into Business as Usual,” by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, published in the Academy of Management Journal, October 2017.





About Stephen Ashkin and The Ashkin Group

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in Greening the cleaning industry, and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which helps facilities monitor and measure their use of natural resources. He is known as the “father of Green Cleaning” and the professional cleaning industries leading advocate promoting sustainability. He is also coauthor of both The Business of Green Cleaning and Green Cleaning for Dummies


Contact Information

Stephen Ashkin

Email: SteveAshkin@AshkinGroup.com