Once upon a time there was a fantastic bike path on Grange road in Cambridge. It was the perfect width, a different colour from the rest of the road and even a different material in order to distinguish it. Because of this it was safe, a pleasure to ride on, and absolutely full of bikes.
A few months ago they resurfaced Grange road. It was a much needed improvement for the cars, fixing potholes and cracks. The problem was that whoever was hired to fix the road, was not told to fix the bike path. So today the grange road bike path is a bit of a mess, covered in bits and pieces of uneven road surfacing materials, gravel, dirt, drains etc. The path is fine if you have a mountain bike, almost useless on a road bike and iffy on a city bike as you fine yourself having to swerve regularly into the traffic to avoid the pot holes and dirt. So it really isn’t a bike path anymore.
This, as pretty much everything does, made me think of sustainability. We regularly hear of companies doing fantastic thing in this area. These innovative, groundbreaking initiatives make the news, the blogs, win awards and become examples of a company that really get it when it comes to sustainability. This in turn may attract new investors, new customers, new positive brand associations for this company that is a sustainability leader.
But what happens, a year or two down the track, when they do their own version of road resurfacing, a new CEO with a different vision wanting to make their mark, a new budget, a new financial situation, the leaders in this area moving somewhere else? Do those initiatives continue to follow the main road?
I imagine that there is a place, perhaps in cyberspace, where fantastic initiatives that have lost support go to rest once they have been pushed aside. Maybe this is where the renewables team from BP is, the initiative at the local supermarket to stop using plastic bags (which are now available again) as well as the original bike path from Grange road?
The good news is that more and more companies are reporting on progress made towards far reaching goals they have made in the past few years. They report on not just the good but also those goals that weren’t reached and why. I hope this trend increases so that we continue to move forward rather than back and forth.