Environmental and Social Management

Environmental and Social Management refers to the approach organizations take regarding their environmental and social impact.

Nowadays many companies are including corporate social responsibility, strategic shared value, and standardized reporting in their main processes. Some of them consider sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals agenda part of their strategy.

A New Perspective

Teal principles will reinforce the organization to sustainability, because social and environmental impacts will be part of the daily life. From an Evolutionary-Teal perspective, it all starts with inner rightness.

As employees, we may have genuine concerns about the environment and the communities we work in. In Teal Organizations, power is decentralized; therefore, environmental and social initiatives can be initiated by passionate people joining forces from any place in the organization.

When we come from a place of wholeness, we feel compelled to do our share to heal our broken relationship with life in all its forms.

Teal tends to zero waste, zero toxicity, and zero impact on ecosystems

For now, initiatives such as B-Corps and Holacracy’s constitution provide interesting avenues for teal leadership.

Approaches to Environmental and Social Management have evolved over time from how can a resource be used or exploited to how can it be served.

Red organizations

The Red paradigm is based on social management via power. The organization is subject to nature and the environment, which might dictate tribal rhythms. Red sees the environment through the filter of the potential for use. What in the environment is open to be had, so that we may increase our ability to survive and prosper?

Amber organizations

In the Amber paradigm, organizations tend to be self-contained, standing apart from the outside world, and run by a hierarchy. Social priorities favor those with status based on birth, education, and gender. The environment is viewed as predictable and organisations seek ways to control it for their benefit, for example in irrigation projects.

With Amber, the first high cultures in the world emerged. The stable structures and long-term processes introduced brought unprecedented change to social structure and their potential.

Orange organizations

The goal-oriented organization of the Orange paradigm is focused on solving tangible problems. Growth is a consequence of successfully reaching your objectives, with a surplus of resources (profit). Not reaching objectives will over time, result in the organization dying. Thereis a belief that the strongest and best organizations will survive.

In Orange organizations, social and environmental efforts are usually focused on ensuring that legal obligations are met. This does not necessarily imply that Orange dismisses the value of these causes. It is rather that these organizations can only justify taking actions which benefit society and environment if these actions also contribute to the objectives of the organization. To Orange, such initiatives would otherwise need their own organization, with objectives that include those goals.

Some Orange organizations have embraced practices of Corporate Social Responsibility constructively. Some contributions have been remarkable. Orange organizations frequently use their CSR initiatives to support their brand image through marketing.

Green organizations

The Green paradigm considers the community (and by extension, the environment) as a stakeholder in the business. The pluralistic drive in Green means that it is important not only to be successful as an organization, but also to lift others up so that they also can be more successful.

Dialogue with stakeholders is part of green organizations and, at the time, one of the core issues in CSR strategies

The organization's mission is likely to include social responsibility. For example, Green organizations might work with suppliers in developing countries to maintain humane working conditions. They may focus on their carbon foot-print or strive to make products and packaging recyclable.

Teal organizations

Teal organizations see themselves as part of a living system. That includes not only the organization itself but also the environment around it. Therefore, Teal organizations often take action to improve also their surroundings:

  • Social and environmental responsibility arises from what is sensed to be “the right thing to do,” based on organizational values.
  • Significant steps are taken to reduce waste, toxicity, and other impacts on the biosphere.
  • New practices may spring from anywhere in the organization.
  • Cost need not be the prime determining factor.

As society as a whole shifts toward the Evolutionary-Teal paradigm, we may see more legal experiments along the line of Holacracy’s constitution and B-Corps. In the final chapter of his book, Laloux speculates about an even more profound change: Perhaps in a Teal society, we would no longer think in terms of ownership, but in terms of stewardship? Such a shift would have profound implications in terms of legal ownership of organizations. Only time will tell if and how such a scenario will play out.

In Practice

How environmental and social practices arise

Environmental and social practices arise from a sense of personal and corporate integrity.

The guiding question is: What is the right thing to do?

Initiative is distributed throughout the organization. Anyone can sense what is needed, and raise it.

Values before profit

Teal organizations strive to manage environmental and social practices ahead of profits. As AES said in a public hearing: “If the company perceives a conflict between ... values and profits, it will try to adhere to its values - even if doing so might result in diminished profits or foregone opportunities”.

Organization and environment are interdependent

The metaphor of a Teal organization as a living organism, with its own purpose and intent, extends to the environment. Both organization and the environment it lives in are considered to be part of a living system. As such, the organization is dependent on its environment and the social structures that affect it. That is, the organization cannot thrive without a healthy environment.

Teal organizations therefore often take a systemic approach to improve the environment or social structures in which the organization is active, especially when that environment is necessary to achieve the purpose of the organization.

Sustainability before short term gains

The theme of sustainability which is common in other Teal practices is also prominent in the area of environmental and social management. Teal insists on a long-term sustainable approach to delivering value. One of the reasons is that Teal feels that exploitation of life itself for short-term financial gain is immoral. Putting future potential of purpose at risk is considered reckless and the wrong thing to do.

Teal often takes proactive measures to improve the environment and social aspects of its surroundings for the long term - in order to increase sustainability of purpose ― even if there may not be payoffs in the immediate term.

Distributed initiatives

Power is decentralized: passionate people can initiate activity from anywhere in the organization.

When Patagonia moved its warehouse to Reno, four employees noticed that most of Nevada’s wild land was not protected wilderness. They sparked an initiative that resulted in 1.2 million acres of wilderness being protected.

Integrated into the business

Teal organizations do not (normally) have separate units for Corporate Social Responsibility. Buurtzorg adds new services in response to emerging social needs sensed by nurses, e.g. to help Alzheimer’s patients handle domestic chores.

Frequently Asked Questions

Encourage conversations that allow employees to raise their concerns. Create an environment that champions new practices. Social and environmental initiatives emerge when these values are aligned with the purpose of the organization.

Via the advice process, initiatives can be assessed for fit with values and evolutionary purpose first. Other criteria might include impact, urgency and affordability.

Self-management works to balance spending in line with values and purpose. Employees’ own integrity and sense of self-censorship work together to ensure that spending is in alignment. Just as Teal organizations do not measure accountability according to multiple bottom lines, self-management guides spending within business capacity. Teal organizations sense and respond. Budgets are used to make decisions; not to control variances.

Concrete cases for inspiration

Related Topics

    Notes and references