Sustainability – in the past often used as an empty buzzword, now a concept increasingly given weight to and turned from mere lip service into action. No wonder, because there are now countless reasons for companies to take more responsibility for both the environment and society. In addition to those whose commitment is based on ethics, and to those who follow the incentives provided by politics, there is a central factor in the context of current developments: it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainability and economic efficiency go hand in hand. Thus, more sustainability can boost innovation in companies or open up new markets and, as a result, generate higher profits. To achieve this, companies must first address the risks they face as resources are running out and the environment is being destroyed. The reasons for these risks and why the public has become so interested in the topic of sustainability are obvious: we as humans have always been dependent on resources. But at least since the use of fossil and thus non-renewable fuels, we have been forced to no longer see raw materials as a constantly available, never-ending source. In addition, the extraction and use of these resources has brought with it for decades a massive burden on humans, animals and the environment, which is reflected in the extinction of species, lack of fresh water, excessive deforestation and horrendous CO2 emissions. These developments are also driven by the well-known linear model for production and consumption: take-make-dispose. This describes the extraction of resources, their use for production with subsequent sale and consumption. Anything that is not (or no longer) needed here ends up in the trash. So it’s high time to establish new sustainability concepts right where they can have the most impact on the way we all use resources: in companies.

Change starts in the process

But how can the sustainability concept find its way into the company? How can sustainability be measured and, above all, how can greater sustainability contribute to generating business benefits? To do so, let’s start with the question that many business owners are bound to ask first: how can we ensure that an increased commitment to the environment and society does not limit the company’s ability to pursue and achieve long-term economic goals? New process management methods are what the country needs! Because yes, once again the business processes are decisively and inevitably intertwined with the changes desired in the company. Green Business Process Management (Green BPM) paves the way for processes that are both economical and green, thus conserving resources and ensuring sustainability. Thanks to Green Business Models, the classic evaluation dimensions for successful processes such as quality or cost efficiency can be supplemented with sustainability. In contrast to traditional business models, they explicitly support the development of products and services with an ecological benefit.

The green formula to success

The obvious question arises as to what the subsequent measurement of success looks like, how companies can classify the added value that has been created. For this purpose, sustainability can be included as a separate dimension in the Balanced Score Card (BSC).¹ In this way, the strategies and goals of the companies are linked to sustainability, and from now on qualitative key figures can be determined and evaluated in addition to financial ones. First of all, Green Business Goals based on the company’s mission are defined for the individual perspectives of the BSC (financial perspective, customer perspective, internal company perspective and innovation perspective). These form the most important gateway for the respective green business strategies, which show how the goals are to be achieved. In doing so it is crucial to achieve a reduction of the impact of business processes on the environment, while ensuring that these goals do not play a subordinate role to the purpose of economic efficiency – they are equally important. By transferring the Green Business Goals and their achievement strategies to the four perspectives of the BSC, the greening of processes becomes the declared objective. The degree of achievement is evaluated using defined KPIs along the entire value chain. Finally, companies must also be aware of the possible risks they may encounter when greening their processes. These must also be applied to the individual perspectives of the BSC using a risk model. The comprehensive consideration of the process models in combination with risks, costs, indicators, etc. thus creates a holistic green business process management, which makes it possible to formulate statements on targeted process improvements. Process models also make dependencies and interfaces between individual processes visible on several levels. The transformation of business processes to green processes can then be achieved (depending on the company situation) using the following concepts²:
  • Green Compensation Procedure Model: can be particularly useful to companies with processes that are difficult or even impossible to reengineer. They can try to compensate for the environmental impact caused by making a monetary contribution, for example by donating to environmental protection projects.
  • Green Variant Procedure Model: If companies cannot change their processes without adjusting their cost structure and thus charging higher prices to the end customer, it makes sense to offer a green alternative in addition to the existing range: a product that is more sustainable but also more expensive.
  • Common Process Improvement Procedure Model: based on the classic BPM method. Here, processes that could potentially be optimized are identified on the basis of the key figures and their environmental impact is examined. Subsequently, the steps required to achieve the objectives are minimized or activities identified as damaging are avoided.
  • Circular Procedure Model: Circular economy instead of linearity leads to maximizing the benefits of products, components and materials along the entire life cycle. This can include reintegrating materials into the supply chain as well as reducing waste or extending the life cycle.
In addition, the individual methods can be combined. This means that the models can be flexibly adapted for different types of companies and strategies. Green BPM is therefore a holistic approach that paves the way for companies to achieve greater sustainability by anchoring it in their business processes. In this way, companies can benefit from the combination of economic as well as social and ecological action and protect their success, society and the environment in the long term.

The topic of Green BPM has piqued your interest? Here you will find detailed information & articles that offer exciting insights into the detailed implementation of Green BPM. Horus Green BPM also offers a comprehensive concept for the transformation of your company.

Author: Justine Hilß

(1) R.S. Kaplan, D.P. Norton: The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action, Harvard Business Press, Boston, USA, 1996
(2) F. Leymann, A. Nowak, D. Scheicher, D. Schumm, S. Wagner: Green Business Process Patterns, IAAS Institute of Architecture of Application Systems, University of Stuttgart, 2011.