During my graduate studies in Sustainability through Arizona State University I have learned much about organizational strategies built around sustainability initiatives. The definition of sustainability is "meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs." Sometimes it is referred to in the context of the more commonly known Triple Bottom Line which takes into account an organization's social, economic, and environmental practices and policies. Plainly put, making money while doing good.
Interestingly, when people think of "sustainability" they don't include the social aspect; in fact, the focus tends to heavily be on the environmental aspect. And while environmental initiatives are certainly critical to the sustainability of an organization, and our planet for that matter, let's consider the social aspect. In order for an organization to be sustainable it must invest in its employees, through continuous training, opportunities for advancement, encouragement of personal development, time to contribute to local charities of their choice, etc. It is impossible for an organization to move forward without a solid, consistent, loyal, and happy employee base. This is especially true in times of trouble, such as in the recent and ongoing economic crisis.
If you as an employer have invested as much in your employees as you do in marketing, operations, budget cutting strategies, etc., the rewards are many. In times like these, employees will be loyal to the company. They will be willing to take on more responsibilities and work in the event of a downsize; they will remain committed to the vision moving forward. As recovery occurs, you will be able to rebuild more quickly because you will have a steady team in place that knows and understands the organization. And in the case of a start-up, it's especially important to retain your employees during the emotional and brutal building process.
Now take these same sustainability concepts, and apply them to yourself. How do you sustain yourself in business? Whether your employer is providing them or not, or if you are in transition or unemployed, invest in yourself--take advantage of training classes or continuing education in your present or new field; stay true to your personal values; continue contributing to your community. And like with organizations, in times of trouble, you will be able to sustain yourself in your current business, or be better prepared to rebound and enter into a new opportunity.
Case in point: I have worked with two wood flooring companies. One, Forest to Floor, a start-up in Memphis, TN does nothing to support any of the sustainability initiatives; there is no indication of any consideration of the environment, employees are treated with disrespect and as expendable, and consequently, the company is not able to gain any momentum. It's financial situation reflects this. The other, Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, a respected company in Stoddard, NH, has always maintained its sustainability initiatives: respect for the environment through responsible forestry practices, respect for its employees, and a business that has survived well for over forty years. Even during this economic downturn, the company's values have not been compromised, and the employees have steadfastly stayed loyal.
And on a personal note, during a time of career transition, by investing in personal development and new, current skills, and staying true to my core values, I was able to successfully sustain my livelihood and build a new business.