Planning Framework

The intent of all planning frameworks is to transform complex systems into something that is simplified so that it can become comprehensible to many and therefore becomes something that can be managed. In an effort to contribute to the many simplifications, we offer the BRIDGES Sustainability Framework™ to define and describe the elements of sustainability. The Framework (Fig. 4.1) offers a perspective that incorporates the three dimensions of sustainability - environmental stewardship, economic growth, and social development. Environmental stewardship can be conceptually broken down into resource use and pollutant/waste streams, which are inputs and outputs of industrial processes. Economic growth can be organized conceptually into that which is internal to the business and that which is external to the broader community. Likewise, social development can also be broken

Transforming Sustainability Strategy into Action: The Chemical Industry, Edited by B. Beloff, M. Lines, and D. Tanzil

Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Resources Values Place Time




Supply Production Use Fate

Life Cycle Stages Figure 4.1. BRIDGES Sustainability Framework (Beloff and Beaver, 2000).

down into workforce considerations and external stakeholder/community considerations. Table 4.1 offers some suggestions as to how to further consider the dimensions of sustainability as aspects that need to be included in sustainability planning. The table also expands from the three traditional dimensions of sustainability to include general/institutional considerations, such as sustainability management. Determining what is of importance to the particular organization is also the necessary first step in selecting indicators of sustainability and related metrics that can be used to track for enhanced management decision-making and communications purposes, as described further in Section 6.1.1 on Indicators and Metrics.

The Framework suggests that impacts from each of the dimensions of sustainability be considered along the lifecycle stages and/or supply chain steps. This is due to the fact that impacts from decisions made in business enterprises often extend beyond their "fencelines" and affect the larger system in which they are embedded. Companies can shift their impacts to their suppliers or their customers by the decisions that they make regarding procurement of raw materials, systems selected for transportation and distribution, design of products that push impacts into product use, or end-of-life disposition. Not only can impacts shift, but also there is the issue of who bears the cost of sustainability-related investments, who derives the benefits, and when in time do those costs and related benefits occur. In order to consider the sustainability of the system in which a company is embedded, it is essential to look at the broad set of impacts - environmental, economic and social - resulting from management decisions along the value chain in which that business is embedded.

In the Framework, the lenses represent variables that affect the way in which the sustainability issues are further characterized and the boundary conditions that are set. Depending on the enterprise, there may be more lenses than shown in

TABLE 4.1. Identifying the Important Aspects of Sustainability in a Company

Environmental Stewardship

Environmental Stewardship

TABLE 4.1. Identifying the Important Aspects of Sustainability in a Company


• Material intensity

• Energy intensity

• Water usage

• Land use

Pollutants & Waste

• Wasted resources

• Releases to air, water, and land

• Material recycling

• Impacts on human health

• Impacts on ecosystem and biodiversity

Economic Development


• Eco-efficiency

• Internal costs to the company

• Revenue opportunities

• Access to capital and insurance

• Shareholder value


• Costs of externalities

• Benefits to local community

• Benefits to society

Social Progress


• Workplace conditions

• Employee health, safety, and well-being

• Security

• Human capital development (education & training)

• Aligning company values with those of employees


• Social impacts of operations

• Stakeholder engagements

• Quality of life in community

• Human rights



• Commitment to triple-bottom-line


• Product stewardship and supply-chain leadership programs

• Accountability and transparency

• Product and service development

• Employees' impact on environment

Source: ©BRIDGES to Sustainability, 2003.

Source: ©BRIDGES to Sustainability, 2003.

Figure 4.1, but these are the most common ones in considering sustainability issues, and they include:

• A time dimension. Is the time horizon short- or long-term? Will the costs be borne today but the benefits occur in the long term, or vice versa? Are the desired improvements planned to be incremental/continuous improvement or revolutionary/discontinuous over time? How do we account for future generations?

• A place dimension. At what scale are the considerations being addressed: local, national, global? Where in the world are we considering sustainability issues and what is the socioeconomic, political, and physical context? What part of the whole system are we considering: the process, facility, corporation, value chain? How do the elements of the system roll up?

• Values. Location in the world influences the attitudes and values of the locale. What is important to the local community? What are the key sustainability concerns? This social context shapes and weights the importance of certain issues in a particular place for a particular group of stakeholders?

• A resource context. What is the ecosystem context of the place? What is the nature of the resource integrity: scarcity, overabundance, or potential to be disrupted now or in the future?

The value of this Framework is to identify the sustainability considerations that are important to the company and its stakeholders in order to plan for sustainability comprehensively.

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