Organizational Sustainability

What Is Organizational Sustainability?

Sustainability, indeed, goes beyond financial health or well-being. As the Ivey Business Journal admits, “There are now numerous different ways to define ‘the sustainable organization.’ One recent popular version defined it as one that ‘contributes to sustainable development by delivering simultaneously economic, social and environmental benefits – the so-called triple bottom-line.’ This version is useful, but it is malleable and certainly incomplete.”3

The Journal continues: “Turning to a dictionary and a thesaurus, the verb ‘to sustain’ is defined as ‘to maintain’ or ‘to endure.’ A fuller definition is ‘being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged over an extended period of time.’”4

The Baldridge Excellence Glossary for Business Sector, Public Sector and Other Nonprofit5 defines organizational sustainability as “your organization’s ability to address current organizational needs and to have the agility and strategic management to prepare successfully for your future organizational, market, and operating environment. Both external and internal factors need to be considered. The specific combination of factors might include health care-wide and organization-specific components.6

The Glossary further says that sustainability considerations might include workforce capability and capacity, resource availability, technology, knowledge, core competencies, work systems, facilities, and equipment. In addition, sustainability also has a component related to preparedness for real-time or short-term emergencies.7

The Ivey Business Journal, on the other hand, says that “we need to do the equivalent of a 360o performance evaluation – that is, analyze our sustainability from all possible perspectives.”8 It further says: “To carry out such a comprehensive analysis, four different inter-related resources need to be examined in order to determine if each one is sustainable. These resources are:

  • the organization itself,
  • its human resources (both inside and outside of the organization),
  • its community/society/ethno-sphere, and
  • the planet‘s biosphere (the environment).”9

Thus, it can be concluded that organizational sustainability is not a stand-alone concept; it is the result of the effective functioning and mutually reinforcing relationship among the elements of an organization. One cannot talk of organizational sustainability only in financial terms (as shown above); sustained funding, for example, is assured only through clear and relevant purpose, an effective board, effective programs, supportive stakeholders, an adequate, competent and committed human resource, a viable financial management system, ability to overcome environmental and technological risks and disasters, among others.

  • 3Ivey Business Journal.
  • 4Ibid.
  • 5Baldridge Excellence Glossary for Business Sector, Public Sector and other Nonprofits.
  • 6Ibid.
  • 7Ibid.
  • 8Ivey Business Journal, op. cit.
  • 9Ivey Business Journal.