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Resource Management

Why Holistic Thinking is necessary to reach sustainability goals

Green solutions to the world's energy, water, chemical use problems will only work if they are integrated parts of thoughtfully devised systems. It's not just that a system perspective is better than a narrower one for achieving sustainability goals. A narrow focus can actually backfire. Organic cotton vs conventional cotton can be used to illustrate why a holistic approach is better for achieving sustainability goals. And that a narrow focus where the whole lifecycle is not considered can actually backfire. For example,  a textile manufacturer's switch to organic cotton could fail if it was done without considering the entire system, crop yields, fiber properties, requiring chemicals and dyes in manufacturing that were worse for the environment than those used on conventional cotton. Just swapping one material, vendor, location, production step, or mode of transportation for another can, when you factor in the unintended consequences, end up raising financial, social, or environmental costs and lead to supply chains that are not sustainable. Companies up and down supply chains in numerous industries confront the same challenge: A well-intentioned individual action or demand aimed at making a business greener can create a long string of unanticipated consequences that collectively dwarf the benefits. [See Don’t Tweak Your Supply Chain—Rethink It End to End Harvard Business Review Oct 2010 http://hbr.org/2010/10/dont-tweak-your-supply-chain-rethink-it-end-to-end/ar/1 ]

Is this approach consistant with your thinking about making progress toward achieving your 'sustainability goals'?

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