Understanding the business goals and skill needs of your clients is paramount to the viability of your own business as a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Customer satisfaction, word of mouth and repeat business are valuable assets for any business with a long term focus.
However, sustainability is a dynamic and developing field of practice. The terminology is not well defined and terms such as ‘sustainable’, ‘green’ and ‘environmental’ are often used interchangeably and in varied contexts.
This presents a number of challenges for RTOs who want to deliver sustainability skills programs to businesses and to individuals who want to work in the area. It also makes it critical to identify where each of your clients fits in the spectrum of sustainability practice, and to analyse their specific skill needs.
Industry practice is still developing and sustainability is not embedded into the routine operations of all businesses.
Enterprises that are committed to sustainability will have their own approach and will target different goals. And each enterprise might require a unique set of sustainability skills to achieve their goals.
Other enterprises may look to your expertise and knowledge of sustainability to help them take the first steps and to suggest skills programs to support their sustainability goals.
Some businesses are ahead of the game and show that sustainability improvements can be applied to most functions within a business. While many of these businesses are large and well resourced their sustainability practices can be used as examples of good practice; and in many cases they can be adapted to apply to smaller businesses. See Sustainability in practice.
There are different ways of thinking about a business that can help you to understand their needs. The following concepts can assist in researching the business and/or its context. They may provide a starting point for your consultations and analysis of the specific business needs.
Drivers for sustainability
Drivers refer to the reasons or motivations for taking action. In the sustainability context these may apply within an enterprise or across a sector or even an industry.
Knowing the reasons your client wants to ‘do’ sustainability can help you to understand their goals and identity their need for skills development or other support.
For example a business that is motivated by compliance issues might need to develop skills in specific techniques for measuring emissions and calculating carbon dioxide equivalents. Or they may need to focus on skills that will help them set up and maintain their compliance systems.
A business that is focused on profit and expanding into global markets may need skills that provide sustainability improvements and business efficiency improvements.
You may be able to identify other drivers that are relevant to your clients and that help you to identify their skill needs. For example, their focus might be:
- Growth and expansion
- New technologies and product innovation
- Community profile and corporate social responsibility.
You may be able to identify how a business approaches sustainability and their level of commitment. This can help you to communicate with the business and could form the basis of your consultation questions and skills analysis.
It may also inform the type and breadth of program, for example, whether you target the whole workforce or a specific group at one level in the business.
Some examples of how a business might perceive sustainability are provided here but you may find others.
Corporate commitment – demonstrates top level commitment to sustainability, for example, Triple Bottom Line accounting, vertical integration of policies and procedures for social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Proactive – recognises sustainability benefits such as cost benefits, the links with business improvements, improved community profile and responsiveness to customer needs.
Reactive – sees sustainability as somewhere between a distraction and a burden; will adhere to minimum requirements and direct market demands.
Regulatory – sees sustainability as a compliance issue largely focused on waste emissions water and energy.
Walk the talk
Sustainability is one area where your own business practices can provide expertise and credibility – walk the talk.
The more you apply sustainability across the various levels and functions of your business the better you will:
- Understand the breadth of sustainability
- Understand the different reasons a business might be motivated to be more sustainable
- Identify a range of options and target areas for sustainability activities
- Develop the capacity in your trainers and assessors with ‘hands on’ experience
- Demonstrate your credibility and track record to clients
- Reap the benefits of being sustainable.