Sustainability and quality – lets have a group hug

I am honoured to have been selected as an “influential” voice – by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).  For the last few months I have been part of a ASQ working committee looking at how we can better integrate sustainability and quality. This has been a key learning exercise for me, as I know a lot about sustainability but did not think I knew much about quality.

As I started to review my TQC training that I did 20 years ago at HP, I was struck how similar the two worlds are. Then I was down-founded by the the lack of integration of quality and sustainability in the meetings and hospitality industry.  Paul Borawski, the president of the ASQ, in a recent blog post   asked what was the big challenge facing quality?  My answer is simple – it’s time for a group hug and to get the quality people talking to the sustainability people and vice-versa: Many of us are focused on the samStrong Teame thing: ie Zero

  • Quality: zero defects, zero customer complaints
  • Sustainability: zero waste, zero water usage, zero human rights violations

Delving deeper  I reviewed the ASQ/BSR white paper CSR and Quality: A Powerful and Untapped Connection,” and discovered a few more key similarities and considered how they relate to the Meetings and Events industry:

  • Making hidden costs visible: From a quality perspective, hidden costs related to wasted materials, wasted energy, distracted employees, dissatisfied customers, and poorly performing products can amount to 10 to 40 percent of total costs. Similarly, sustainability can use lifecycle approaches to highlight costs buried deep in the event value chain. For Symantec at the moment we are looking at the costs to design, recycle and dispose of merchandising and branding materials used in an event.
  • Corporate governance: In quality, senior management holds complete responsibility for quality problems, and quality is made in the boardroom. The majority of quality problems are the fault of poor management rather than poor workmanship. Likewise, sustainability success is directly related to CEO commitment, as I can testify at MCI.
  • Empowerment: “Quality at the source” refers to an approach in which workers are given the authority to stop a production line if there is a quality problem or offer a customer an on-the-spot refund if the service is not satisfactory. Empowerment is also a primary pillar in promoting supply chain sustainability. In our industry event manager need to have the education and freedom to make purchasing designs and create new processes in favour of sustainability.
  • From reactive to proactive: In quality, prevention and continuous improvement are more effective than inspection. And in sustainability, supply chain monitoring approaches used alone fail to address root causes for social and environmental challenges. Its not about recycling event waste and offsetting carbon emissions. Its about design events from the first moment to be more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. If sustainability is a core element of meeting design, then the actual implementation becomes much simpler.
  • Internal alignment: According to the total quality approach, each department views other departments as internal customers, causing barriers to fall. This kind of cross-functional approach is useful in identifying and managing sustainability issues. Both quality and sustainability, therefore, encourage internal collaboration both vertically (from the CEO level to the factory floor) and horizontally (across departmental silos).

What do you think? Are there any great cases of quality and sustainability working together in your workplace?

With the introduction of the ISO20121 Event Sustainability Management System, organisations have a great opportunity to review processes and design innovation into their management journey. Quality does not need to stifle innvovation as some people complain. Working on projects such as the Danish Presidency of the EU, we have really learnt that sustainability and quality go hand in hand.

For more info on how to join together your sustainability and quality initiatives – check out the SRO webpage, this ASQ presentation and also this great article from John Elkington:

Disclaimer I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

1 Comment

  1. […] one of the recent posts, Sustainability and quality – lets have a group hug, the author lines up the biggest challenge to Quality is to “to get the quality people talking to […]

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