Sustainable Enterprise

Sustainable Enterprise

Last week, I attended a mind-expanding presentation called "Building the Sustainable Enterprise: How OD Can Pave the Way," given by Jeana Wirtenburg, and sponsored by the New Jersey Organization Development Network.

Jeana Wirtenberg's presentation addressed the need for long-term, systemic, large-scale change to address intractable global problems such as global warming, health crises (e.g. AIDS), hunger, poverty, terrorism and the like. Her position, in part, is that corporations need to think about the "triple bottom line" of profits, people, and planet. Corporations should think further about the meaning of "social responsibility" and ask themselves if they can do more to partner with educational and governmental institutions to find solutions to these seemingly insurmountable issues.

After presenting these heady concepts, Jeana engaged the audience of OD practitioners in several rapid breakout discussions, including:

- What are the implications of Sustainable Enterprise for the field of organization development?

- What are the three biggest barriers, and the three biggest enablers, of Sustainable Enterprise in today's organizations?

Currently a consultant and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Enterprise (ISE) at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Jeana has worked in government, non-profit, as well as the corporate world for companies such as AT&T and PSEG.

Personal Response: I found this session very stimulating, very challenging. The global problems that Jeana has identified are huge, complex, and entrenched. For corporations, such as Coca Cola or HP, to embrace the "triple bottom line," means committing their resources (including people) to a higher purpose. It means engaging in a long-term collaborative inquiry into issues that may be fraught with politics and conflict.

For OD practitioners, several skill areas, such as change management, conflict resolution and collaboration, will be required in this work, but may not be sufficient. Part of the work that Jeana is pursuing at the ISE is to envision what additional competencies (e.g. appreciative inquiry, positive political skills) OD professionals should start developing today.


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