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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.”