The techniques of total quality management (TQM) with the concepts of sustainable development have been applied to socioeconomic policy. It is applied primarily to the typical business concern.
Business, through local and international trade, has a profound impact on the ability of a culture to provide basic human needs, and other goods and services. Therefore, commerce and how it conducts itself internally and interacts with its operating environment is axial to the success of sustainable development. Long-term business management requires the successful management of losses and gains; and, so it is with sustainable development.
Sustainable development can be defined as the management of losses and gains resulting from the degradation of environmental factors that affect the ability of life, any life, to survive, now or in the future. The "winners and losers" of environmental impact are often defined by the decisions made directly from those entities conducting commerce.
TQM is a management philosophy that supports the process of continuous improvement within an organization and where total emphasis is placed on the customer. In the socioeconomic viewpoint, TQM defines the customer as all members of society and facets of environment that interact with the activities of the company.
A company that integrates sustainable development within its’ TQM management processes could set itself apart from the competition, and perhaps force its’ competition to include sustainable development within their own operational considerations as well, thereby benefiting society as a whole. This trend should also reduce the demand from society to governments for mandates controlling business practices.
The very nature of TQM, and how it is implemented, requires sustainable development policy consideration. If it is not considered, then quality management for that firm will likely fail, and it will probably lose its’ competitive advantage.
The major steps in the implementation of TQM yield a marked similarity to those processes for implementing sustainable development in Our Common Future. One of the first concerns suggested by Our Common Future is the development of long term strategies for achieving the company objectives for sustainable development. Before tactics can be applied, a definition of the goals, and time line, need to be established. In process of information gathering following question must be asked-
What is your company's definition of sustainable development?
If your company could make only one change towards sustainable development, what would it be?
What would be the major focus of sustainable development that our customers would like us to incorporate the most?
What do our customers think is best about our current socioeconomic policies? What do they think are the worst aspects?
What will our customers be expecting from us, in terms of sustainable development in two years? Five years?
What are the sustainable development policies and trends of our competitors?
What development policies would our associates or employees favor most? The least?
What is our company’s image and how will it be affected by development programs?
What is the main reason your company is considering to be sustainable?
This process of information gathering should be feasible for almost any firm to accomplish. The resource demands posed by each question can be kept as simple as necessary.
This leads to a second recommendation for implementation. It encourages the development of processes that will lead to greater cooperation between economic, public and other multinational entities. The creation of a government controlled data base as suggested above might serve as a corner stone of this goal.
Facilitating sustainable development as a feature of TQM requires that all decisions be made in reference to the customer. Cooperation in this process can deteriorate between the public and private sector when variations of the definition for the term customer occur.
It is suggested that the policies of sustainable development should be integrated into an existing TQM program. TQM organizations should have at least one quality circle management team established. A quality circle management team is made up of different stakeholders at all levels within the organization that share some common area of responsibility. The members of the team can change depending upon the objectives, function, size and organizational structure of the company.
The relationship between education and sustainable development is paramount education and the dissemination of knowledge as related to socioeconomic policies should occur on multiple levels:
Government sustainable development educational efforts directed specifically to business and society.
Professional sustainable development research efforts directed to all members of society.
Sustainable development educational programs directed to all members of the TQM quality circle.
TQM quality circle derived sustainable development educational programs directed to all stakeholders of the business entity.
TQM quality circle derived sustainable development educational programs directed to customers.
Stakeholder feedback to government agencies or other relevant non-government agencies (NGOs).
The processes of educational training might be one of the more costly areas of implementing sustainable development. Fortunately, training is a continuous function of TQM. Sustainable development should become another extension of that training. Along with the principles of sustainable development, TQM quality circles will also need to be trained on the decision making processes best applied to the management of sustainable development
The process of evaluation is critical to successful management. Our Common Future encourages the evaluation of three phases for managing towards sustainable development:
First, evaluate your company’s activities in terms of ecological impact; then implement a plan towards sustainable development policy.
Then, evaluate the success and failures of your policy.
Finally, evaluate potential reorganization strategies for increased ecological considerations within activities associated with trade, energy usage and other operating factors.
"A systematic, documented, periodic, and objective evaluation is needed of how well the organization is performing in the area of sustainable development, not only to facilitate management control practices but also to asses compliance with company policies, including meeting regulatory requirements. Sustainable development reporting is a demanding concept that and goes beyond environmental reporting. It requires that companies asses their performance in both the environment and the economy in terms of quality of life today and for future generations.".
MANAGING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
As we have seen, the processes of gathering information, cooperation, organizational structure, training and evaluation are major areas of concern within the framework of managing a sustainable development program. The brainstorming of even the simplest socioeconomic program can usually produce a process of unlimited freedom in design as compared to other typical operations within the business entity. Such freedom can create policies, which if not carefully designed, will expose the business entity to consequences of higher risk.
The TQM quality circle must consider the theme of risk management not only in its traditional management functions but also in the design evaluation of its sustainable development programming. Our Common Future suggests that a sustainable development program is a complex system, which should be designed in consideration of risks. These considerations should include human factors safety design, accident prevention, and liabilities for unintended damages, sabotage, and ecological or economic damages as a result of improper integration.
TQM is offered as a management tool that can be used for organizational and sustainable development implementation. The characteristics of TQM closely parallel the objectives for managing towards sustainable development as outlined in Our Common Future.
Business is recognizing the adoption of sustainable development policy as a competitive advantage. TQM quality circles must consider sustainable policy management as a necessary feature of each product or service life cycle. Sustainable development policy should become a key aspect of the marketing mix and will be allocated and financed as a promotional expenditure.
TQM is offered as a systems approach for implementing sustainable development. The methodology of TQM should reduce the risks associated with the administration of socioeconomic policy and provide a way to achieving the goals of sustainable development.
By RAJIV KUMAR, IMT Ghaziabad
"To win...you must stay in the game" - Claude Bristol