Could we marry sustainability to quality?

Quality is so important, whether you’re in a regulated environment or not. Quality management has been around for a really long time, and it’s the kind of thing that you either love or hate (I love it!). The documentation, the processes, the regulation, it makes some people tick, and it has become a mainstay in even the smallest of businesses. But why should we arrange a marriage between quality and sustainability?

In my experience in the corporate world, Quality is like the prize pig. They have their own structure, their own governance and the power they have rivals no other. This is down to the influence of regulation. In highly regulated industries, such as pharmaceuticals, you can’t move without a quality audit, because pharma is bound by regulation.

EHS on the other hand is the poor relation. The systems and procedures are in place, but a lot of the time, the checks and audits are not mandatory. And then we have sustainability. Sustainability is like the stray dog, barking in the back yard that no-one is listening to. Sure, someone throws him a bone from time to time but ultimately, he just makes you feel guilty every time you glance in his direction because you haven’t got the time or energy to be dealing with him.

What if we looked at conventional quality team roles and through a sustainability lens? Sustainability Control, Sustainability Assurance, Sustainability Engineering? What if we had internal sustainability standards? What if we had sustainability benchmarks? Do your products or services meet these standards? And if they don’t, they should be binned? Well not quite, that would be wasteful, but perhaps some other consequence, like a big fat fine.

Imagine a world with a powerful sustainability team, where no decision is made without their input, where they can call a halt to a particular practice or process based on the environmental impact, where they have the power to select or reject suppliers… Well, it won’t happen without the magic of regulation, so I guess we’ll have to sit tight.