Sustainability Gap: Script

This is another simple yet powerful sustainability tool: a simple 4-step approach to create effective and rigorous sustainability plans: ABCD.

In previous videos we discussed that:

  • Using backcasting from principles of success can help us adopt a different way of thinking to achieve sustainability;
  • Achieving checkmate and winning the sustainability game can be described as complying with 4 scientific sustainability principles that have been peer reviewed and continuously refined over the last 20 years.

If we combine backcasting from sustainability principles with some common strategic planning methods that you may already know, we get a simple step-by-step approach to strategic sustainability planning in 4 steps:

A-    Awareness: First we need to make sure that we have a common language in our team, our department or our organization and that we all agree on what it means to play the ‘game’ of sustainability and what the rules of the game are. Sounds obvious but often people use different definitions.

B-    Baseline – Assessing current reality: This is where we are today. It’s about completing a diagnosis of our current situation. It usually includes a sustainability impacts analysis to identify key infractions of the 4 sustainability principles and key sustainability challenges. It also includes an assets inventory and an evaluation of stakeholder relationships.

C-    Compelling vision: This is about creating a sustainability vision and imagining potential solutions to the challenges identified in the baseline assessment. The vision includes complying with the 4 sustainability principles but also our core purpose and our core values. Using backcasting is very powerful here! It prevents us from proposing only solutions to problems we have today. With the end in mind, we can suggest solutions that will help us create the sustainable future we want for ourselves.

D-   Decide on priorities: This step is about choosing between the solutions proposed in the previous step and deciding which ones are most strategic while allowing for tactical flexibility. Three questions can help us decide strategically on priorities here and this will be the topic of another video.

This is a very flexible approach: you can apply to a product, a department, the whole company or the whole community. It’s also cyclical and you always revisit and refine A, B, C and D.

Applying this ABCD planning methodology many times with businesses and communities, I have found that the most important element is the gap between our current situation and our vision because that’s what creates the creative tension. A lot of the time, when we know where we are and where we want to be, we just go there. Creating this tension upstream generates action and motion downstream. That’s why it’s important to be rigorous and honest while assessing our current situation and to be ambitious while creating our vision. Pretending that the current situation is better that it really is and/or creating a vision that is not very ambitious can feel more comfortable but it reduces the creative tension and therefore reduces our chances to generate action and motion in the right direction.

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