The Sound of Sustainability

The modern symphonic orchestra is perhaps the greatest musical instrument ever invented. The cacophony of strings, winds, brass, and percussion is realized through proper preparation that includes all contracted musicians having practiced their fair share, full orchestral rehearsals, production coordination on stage, marketing, strategic planning, fundraising, and an audience to witness the final product. The conductor is the glue, the facilitator of the performance, responsible for interpreting the often-timeless compositions that were written over 100 years ago. She or he is responsible for the tempo, the balance, and the phrasing that is often nitpicked by critics to be too fast, too slow, to the extent that this interpretation is an insult to the classical music tradition.

You may be wondering what a symphony has to do with sustainable business practices. An organization has several moving parts and without proper coordination the core products may diminish in quality or the intended messaging of the product may not reach the target market. For example, if the marketing department is not in constant communication with R&D which is not in touch with legal, productivity is lost, financial growth potential is minimized, customer loyalty is diminished, and valuable resources are wasted. As businesses realize that incorporating social and environmental values within their mission leads to profitability, it becomes even more important for companies and departments to play in sync.

In my opinion, a business with mature sustainability practices functions akin to a nearly perfect performance of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, From The New World. And that is no easy feat. Each of the players has the responsibility to uphold their commitment to the rest of the ensemble, or else the entire collective can fall apart. In business, each employee and each department have a very specific duty to perform. The operations team requires precise control over its supply chain. And if a supplier is late, that can create backorders, and the marketing team needs to communicate with the unsatisfied customers…

Check out the final movement of The New World Symphony here:

Note that during a section or instrumentalist solo, the rest of the orchestra is in tune with the soloist, literally and figuratively. Each of the sections understands when it’s time to play in the foreground, and when to be the support in the background. The conductor guides all of the performers. However, even if the conductor were absent from the scene, the orchestra would still be able to perform since each of the players is so well prepared. In an organization, the CEO and full executive team have the responsibility – I’ll spare the reader from belaboring the analogy…

A couple of weeks ago, I took over the University of Oregon’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices social media accounts and focused on the social benefits of renewable energy. A few notable mentions include the increase in jobs, stronger communities, and vast health benefits for regions that invest in renewables.

The sustainability revolution is here, and we are just starting to see new clean energy business models take shape through partnership flips and virtual power plants. It is imperative that organizations, startups and corporates, that have a mission which involves social and environmental advocacy and action, coordinate their various functions as if every day is a nearly perfect performance of The New World Symphony.

Written by nzolan

Ness has 10 years of operations and fundraising experience working with non-profits in the performing arts. He has held the roles of General Manager for the Eugene Symphony and Associate Producer for the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Ness has worked with many politicians and celebrities but cares more about how many people he can convince to take up pogo sticking as a hobby, for the physical and mental benefits. Through the Oregon MBA, Ness is studying sustainability, innovation, strategy and leadership. Ness loves all people and the planet and wants to continue his service to bettering our society and the environment through business practices.