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Embracing Sustainability

The drive for sustainability is a guiding principle of many organisations, not simply because it makes sound financial sense. Embracing sustainability is not only about manufacturing/producing, or supplying in a sustainable manner but also about the long-term future of the organisation which will be achieved through taking a holistic view of the operation from a resources, people, environmental and financial perspective.

We often focus solely on the financial return of improvement programmes and this is an important factor. Poor performing machinery, under-utilisation and breakdowns all contribute to higher energy utilisation, waste and cost. These are the visible wastes and those that we can address pro-actively. But as this current heatwave reminds us, we have a duty to the global community in which we live to consider our impact on the environment and our communities.

Zokaei, Hines et al in an article published in the Sloane Review (2014) looked at the approach taken to sustainability by Toyota through Monozukuri.

What Is Monozukuri?

The Japanese word monozukuri has a literal meaning of “production” — “mono” is the thing that is made or created, and “zukuri” refers to the act of making. Monozukuri, however, has meanings beyond the literal; it can be best compared to the word “craftsmanship” in English, which describes the making of an object with particular skill, care, or artistry.

There is, however, a difference between the two concepts: “craftsmanship” emphasizes the skill and attentiveness of the maker, whereas monozukuri focuses more on the qualities of the object being made and less on the qualities of the person making it. This subtle difference reflects the Japanese sense of responsibility for the inherent value of the materials of production and their deep respect for the world around them, both animate and inanimate.

In the Japanese tradition of monozukuri, the craftsman takes great care using resources so as not to be wasteful or futile. When an item or human effort is taken into use, there needs to be a benefit for the society in the result — while, at the same time, the balance between production, resources and the society should be maintained.

Monozukuri, therefore, is manufacturing that is in harmony with nature — one that adds value for the society. You could even say monozukuri is the older sister of the concept of sustainable manufacturing.

Using these principles we can start to consider and simplify our approach to create a system within our organizations that not only supports and drives sustainability but is continuously improving and evolving as new knowledge and resources emerge – such as the growth in digitalization and automation which has both improved and hindered companies sustainability agendas.


From Reactive to Proactive Strategies

In the book Creating a Lean & Green Business System (2013), Zokaei et al used the following diagram to describe the likely impact of different strategies on carbon reduction:

Taking this we can evolve this thinking towards the wider topic of sustainability and define our Proactive and Reactive strategies in relation to sustainability and identify their likely impact.

The New Nature of Business

Our colleague, John Quirke has been championing sustainability both within our organisation and within the clients he supports, and he talks about ‘The New Nature of Business’ and what this means. The new nature of business focuses on ensuring that every aspect of an organization’s activity considers sustainability, and that sustainability can not exist as an isolated system. In his new book due for release this autumn “DEEP EXCELLENCE”, John describes how low productivity and performance has such a dire impact on our environment and planet. That we owe it not just to our employees and shareholders to be more efficient, but to the world in which we live.

Using the S A Partners Enterprise Excellence Model sustainability can be considered in terms of:

  • Purpose – is your organisation aligned to a sustainable future through your desired future state. This would also incorporate profitability

  • People – ensure your organisation is acting sustainably in relation to its employees – through training; succession planning and support.
  • Process – understand how your products and the way you work impacts the environment and the sustainability of our operations (resource utilization etc.)


First steps toward a better future:

We are frequently asked by organizations where to begin. Our advice is to keep it simple and align any activity to your Enterprise Excellence or Continuous Improvement Journey.

The following five steps can be driven by you and your team, or supported by S A Partners:

  1. Benchmark & Assess your current state
  2. Develop an Improvement Roadmap / Sustainability System
  3. Focus on Engaging your People & your Suppliers
  4. Implement Improvement Plans
  5. Review and Improve

For more information on how we can support you please contact



Zokeai et al “Creating a Lean and Green Business System” (2013), CRC Press

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