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Barriers to change

Looking at the barriers that impact an organisations ability to efficiently and effectively become sustainable.
arrows pointing to a barrier
© RMIT University 2017

While acknowledging the drivers of change as important there are still many barriers to making the shift to become a sustainable organisation. Common barriers to change toward sustainability include:

  • Competing priorities of managers – profit and growth prioritised over environment and human capital
  • Organisational systems not up to managing the task
  • Lack of capital to invest in new ways of design and managing operations
  • Organisational culture not open to new ideas and innovation
  • Failure to enable employees to be autonomous
  • High staff turnover and cynicism as to whether the organisation really wants to change
  • Senior leadership group not leading the change or not committed to change
  • Little acknowledgement of the sustainability issues in the business global supply chains (up to 80% of corporate carbon footprint is located in supply chain)
  • Failure to acknowledge the human rights and social issues linked to global supply chains (human rights and social issues will affect corporate reputation and negatively impact human sustainability in the organisation)
  • Inadequate systems to manage information
  • Failure to keep up with technological innovations
  • Not being able to form partnerships with civil society to address ethical, social and environmental issues.
  • Economic and financial priorities of business overshadow human sustainability issues.

Along with barriers to change is the need to manage risk which can also be a significant driver of change.

Many managers are under constant pressure to reduce costs and risks associated with business activities. Failure to comply with government regulation can be costly, however, the cost of fines may be small in comparison to the negative impact on the organisation’s reputation. Other risks present when a company is directly or indirectly associated with natural disasters or human rights abuse in the supply chain. For instance, the Rana Plaza disaster in 2012 had significant risk implications for many global fashion brands. Disasters that tragically cause loss of human life can have a big influence on consumers and society’s expectations of what corporations should be doing to avoid causing harm to people and the planet. The moral case against brands can end up costing a business more in reputational damage.

Think about a company that is slow to switch to sustainable practice. It can either be a well-known global or local business, or perhaps a business with which you have personal experience.
What are the key barriers or sources of resistance that prohibit the business from adopting more sustainable practice?
Share your thoughts in the Comments area and compare against other learners to identify if there are any common trends.
© RMIT University 2017
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Business Futures: Sustainable Business Through Green HR

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