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Organizational Sustainability

About Organizational Sustainability

Sustainability - a recognized business approach
The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Independent Enterprise Assessments is researching the concept of sustainability as one part of its efforts to ensure the Department's continuing effectiveness in reliably achieving its mission in an increasingly global and diverse business climate. Sustainability allows senior executives to capture a full and integrated view of diverse and complex organizations factoring in the economic, safety, environmental, and social needs. The relevance of sustainability is reflected in various manifestations in corporate business. For example, Dow Jones recognizes sustainability as an investable concept exemplified in the 1999 establishment of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. These indexes track the financial performance of leading sustainability-driven companies and provide asset managers with reliable and objective benchmarks to manage sustainability portfolios. Further, General Electric Inc., DuPont, Dow Chemical Company, Ford Motor Company, and 3M are but a handful of companies embracing sustainability as either a way to propel a successful business to even greater success, or to turn around struggling business units. Click the link for our Sustainability Outreach Program brochure.

Proposed Sustainability Pilot Study

A review of other industrial sustainability programs reveals that industries organize their sustainability efforts into a number of elements. This allows them to categorize operational data for analyzing corporate-wide trends and assessing overall performance. IEA has developed a sustainability model made up of twelve such elements which are reflective of industry practices and are also aligned with DOE's strategic plan. The twelve elements are identified as: 1) Infrastructure, 2) Human Capital, 3) Safety, 4) Security, 5) Environmental Stewardship, 6) Leadership and Organizational Transformation, 7) Mission and Markets, 8) Legal and Licensing, 9) Stewardship, Good Governance, and Reputation, 10) Acquisition, Procurement, and Supply Management, 11) Science, Technology, and Innovation, and 12) Business Systems. Central to the sustainability model, IEA expects that these elements will enable "corporate-wide" analyses similar to those of other high-performing corporations. IEA believes this model is now ready for testing.

IEA believes the testing of this model will yield results that are most useful by establishing full partnership with a leader in DOE field operations. To accomplish this, IEA seeks to collaboratively finalize the desired elements for modeling, further develop the implementation approach, agree upon evaluation requirements, and work as a team as the pilot effort progresses. This testing, in a controlled and limited setting, is necessary to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of the sustainability concept for DOE, rather than forcing a potentially poor fit on a broader scale.

National Issues

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has completed a significant research project that considers the long-term implications of global trends facing the world. Their findings have been compiled in a website called Seven Revolutions. The project maps seven key trends that will effect change out to the year 2025, providing leaders with a comprehensive outline of the major challenges that lie ahead. The seven "revolutionary" areas of change are:

  • population;
  • resource management;
  • technology innovation and diffusion;
  • information and knowledge creation and dissemination;
  • economic integration;
  • conflict;
  • and governance.

Some of CSIS findings are included below and appear to be the driving force behind some of the nation's strategic initiatives.

  • Foreign firms are more adept at taking the results of scientific research and producing commercially-viable products.
  • If current trend continue, by 2010 more than 90% of all engineers and scientists in the world will be living in Asia.
  • Increased management and manufacturing costs in the U.S. are causing companies to move outside the U.S.
  • The U.S. will import 65% - 75% of its oil by 2020, a time when there is ever higher competition for this resource.

The connection between basic research required to resolve these issues, and national strength lies in the ability of a nation to innovate. Innovation is the development of new products, services or methods of production through the application of scientific research or invention to commercial or military activities. Innovation is particularly important once economies become mature and can no longer expand by simply increasing the supply of resources devoted to production. Instead they must find new ways to use resources more efficiently. The U.S. has an unparalleled ability to innovate however other nations are seeking, with some success, to duplicate it.

The nation now finds itself competing in a more globalized economy. The advancement of other nation's ability to compete on a global scale has diffused technology and research capabilities around the world and helped to create the wealth that lets many countries pursue technological leadership. Even though the U.S. continues the world's technological leader, other nations are rapidly advancing while the U.S. technology leadership is stagnating. Left unchanged the U.S. technological leadership will erode in ways that damage its national power and the welfare of its citizens. This is one key issues that has led to the development of the National Strategic Initiatives.

National Strategic Initiatives

Through DOE's mission, discovering the solutions to power and secure America's future, DOE plays an important role in supporting some of the nation's top strategic initiatives. Each of these initiatives is designed to improve the nation's economy, global competitiveness, security, and American standard of living. Mandated by the white House, these initiatives include:

National Security Initiative
Builds alliances, deters hostile actions, and identifies technology and infrastructure needs for both.

Economic Strategy
Long-term plan for maintaining productivity, U.S. leadership, and dominant market share.

Defense Industrial Base
Assesses and provides strategy to maintain war fighter and first-responder technologies, a national security workforce, heavy industries, and viable production rates.

Educational Initiative
Revitalizes the educational system and standards, ensures access to the best minds from around the globe, and encourages U.S. citizens to seek careers in science and engineering.

Nanotechnology Initiative
Supports responsible development, applies technologies to materials science, communications, biotech, etc., establishes a means for public and private benefits.

The national strategic initiatives are interrelated, in that individual components of some support specific components of others and serve to address the key issues below. The strongest link among all of the initiatives is the need for new technology. Each initiative specifies a need for new and innovative technology with the exception of the educational initiative which sets out to capture the greatest scientific and engineering minds specifically for developing the technology specified that will:

  • Help the nation be less reliant on foreign sources of oil
  • Keep the nation more secure
  • Add to advances in American manufacturing processes
  • Add to the growth of the nation's economy

DOE Role in Technology Development is Key in Supporting the National Initiatives

In studying the relationship between the strategic initiatives and DOE's supporting role, it becomes apparent that the Department's effort to develop new technology not only improves our standard of living but adds a major component to the sustainability of the nation. In fact, technology development is thought to be so vitally important today that The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was asked by Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Jeff Bingaman of the Committee on Energy and National Resources, with endorsement by Representative Sherwood Boehlert and Representative Bart Gordon of the House Committee on Science, to respond to the following questions:

"What are the top 10 actions, in priority order, that federal policy makers could take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the global community of the 21st century? What strategy, with several concrete steps, could be used to implement each of those actions?" 

The Academy has answered these questions in a publication entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Much of its findings are supported by the strategic initiatives and DOE's strategic plan.

Effective Performance Evaluation Drives Funding for Research

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) reports that the government's current long-range fiscal path is clearly imprudent and fiscally unsustainable A Call for Stewardship: Enhancing the Federal Government's Ability to address Key Fiscal and Other 21st Century Challenges. In fact, in this report the former Comptroller General, David M. Walker stated "We do not know whether many of today's federal programs, policies, functions, and activities are generating real, desirable, and sustainable results."

The GAO Suggests the development of a system of key national outcome-based indicators which will help the nation to set objectives, measure progress, assess conditions and trends, and communicate more effectively on complex issues. At a minimum, management at any level throughout a federal organization should be able to identify:

What do we want to achieve?
What is our current situation?
What options and resources do we have?
How are we going to make it happen?
How do we know when we are being successful?

Without a clear understanding of the answers to these questions funding for crucial research for new technology may be redirected to other non productive areas.