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Actions to take dictated by the sustainability lens to operate a business

Pretend you are currently writing a business plan or operating a business. Name three actions you can take as dictated by the sustainability lens.

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Question asked by devi_ghimire

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angel profile image
Angel Paudel

Business plan, usually used as a way to describe the path to use for the next 3-5 yrs. for a project is a written document which provides a detailed plan and ways to carry that ahead. It also provides a base for the operation of the business (Chawla, 2015). It is thus encouraged in the current world to focus on sustainable growth of the business while working/developing a business plan. The plan should focus on people, planet, and profit to address sustainability. This helps the business avoid getting into any trouble in the near future.

These are the tree actions that one can take as dictated by the sustainability lens:

Weak Ties : Consider a business which just sticks to the resources within and is strongly behind their ideology and process like Nokia at its prime. They were doing fantastically well but other companies caught them off and innovated so much that they left Nokia behind to struggle and get back in the race. Thus, weak ties which basically includes the relationship outside of the closer network brings in new perceptive and information all helping towards having a new way of thinking. The weak ties are not actually weak but are called so because they fall outside the traditional network (Larson, 2012). For example, considering that you’re in the age 1800s and have to explore an unknown territory with no or very badly made map. What would you do? You can ask the close friends, family, relatives, and acquaintances to learn more on what they know about the terrain. To know the survival techniques, ways at navigating through the area, you must have to go beyond that circle and ask people from diverse walks of life with some experience on such voyage/adventure. This will require you to initiate new relationships to acquire more information to move ahead. This relationship with those people is called as weak ties.

System Thinking: It is an entrepreneurial innovation process which views a business interdependent with both complex living and nonliving systems. System thinking can open up a different way of thinking for a business and lead to innovative business model (Ackoff, 1994). While we think about a river, we often recall the smooth flowing of water, people roaming around, a fishing spot and alike. But we miss out a lot of things like how the water comes in the river, the process of evaporation, human settlement around the edges of the river and lot more. Thus, system thinking enables one to look into the depth and allows businesses to see those hidden opportunities and linkages in a wider context like in the example of A river where focus towards the human settlement in the edge of the river was not often considered with a river (Larson, 2012).

Molecular Thinking: As the name suggests, it involves thinking in a molecule (micro) level of the situation or problem. All the small details that can impact the people, planet, and profit must be properly addressed under this. It also enables one to have a clear picture to start a business while analyzing all the aspects of it at a microscopic level (Larson, 2012). This can also be considered as a subset (representational) of system thinking as it provides an important outlook on components which normally are not visible. It can thus open up possibilities which were never thought of with innovative opportunities to address and substitute dangerous materials. Fuji can be a good example of this process. In the earlier stage when they were into the market for film-based and when it was almost phased out. They looked into the smaller details and identified the same chemical that’s used towards making film can work as a good anti-aging cream and thus they started working as a cosmetics which did help the business survive and generate profits to work further into it. They also cut down almost one-third of their workforce after careful analysis of the workforce utilization which wasn’t practiced by any other organization at that age but provide a good move while we look back at it. Thus, molecular thinking enables a business to look at deeper, smaller elements of a business functioning, operation and alike and helps get new insights while also removing/replacing hazardous process with better ones.


Ackoff, R. (1994). Systems thinking and thinking systems. System Dynamics Review , 10 (2-3), 175-188.

Chawla, K. (2015). Business Planning Essentials: Preparing a Business Plan. Journal Of Advances In Business Management , 1 (3), 93-99.

Larson, A. (2012). Sustainability, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (1st ed.). Saylor Academy.

shantamilan profile image

Sustainability is about continued growth. As Timmon’s modal dictates the need of balanced functioning of team, opportunity and resources for a business to be successful there are there facets to understand for the sustainability of a business. "Sustainable entrepreneurship consists of entrepreneurial actions to improve the environment and advance social wellbeing, but also generate profits. Accordingly, the goal is to initiate actions and processes that develop profitable opportunities and contribute to sustainable development. (Tur-Porcar, Roig-Tierno, & Anna Llorca M, 2018)” These three strategic facets are weak ties, systems thinking and thinking like a molecule.

Weak ties

As the saying goes, there is strength in unity. Weak ties does not necessarily mean that the relationship is weak but rather those relationship that we maintain outside our immediate network. These individuals are outside the box in a manner of speaking. Sometimes situation may dictate you to think outside the box or get a fresh perspective about your business or situation. It is at these time the weak ties can help rejuvenate with fresh idea, new scientific data, venture opportunities, emerging concepts and perspectives which will provide a competitive advantage to your business to differentiate your service or product (Spinelli, Jr. & Adams).

Systems thinking

Systems thinking is more about understanding, analysing and strategizing based on a various interrelated aspects of business and avoiding narrow defined boundaries. Business today has evolved from holding on to ideologies to understanding what the broader audience and stakeholders think. Customer centric designs and thinking is required and necessary for sustainability of business today. Technology can also be used to gather market intelligence for supporting systems thinking. "Powerful and wide-spread technology and significant role of information systems in our everyday lives are all reasons why IT and IS should be at the forefront of the battle for sustainability (Pekmez, 2016).”

Thinking like a molecule

Thinking like a molecule is opposite to systems thinking. While systems thinking is more open and broader molecule thinking is concentrating on the smaller details remaining focused on a particular aspects of business. It is a strategy in itself to solve bigger problems. All problems or challenges have a root cause that are usually smaller and easier to handle than the larger issue at hand. Therefore deconstructing challenges into smaller manageable portion makes it easier to solve even impossible issues. For example proper bookkeeping in smaller businesses help see bigger problem that they may be facing. Cost reduction strategies can be applied by understanding the bookkeeping.

These three strategic facets can be used to see a business under the lens of sustainability.


Pekmez, Z. (2016). Key Success Factors for Sustainable Strategic Information Systems Planning and Information Technology Infrastructure. Journal of Economic and Social Studies; Sarajevo , 43-55. doi:10.14706/JECOSS166110

Spinelli, Jr., S., & Adams, R. (n.d.). New Venture Creation . New York City: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Tur-Porcar, A., Roig-Tierno, N., & Anna Llorca M. (2018). Factors Affecting Entrepreneurship and Business Sustainability. Sustainability; Basel , 452. doi:10.3390/su10020452

ncitujjwal profile image

Business plan is a clear explanation about business process, strategy in a written form. A business plan is living, and breathing able to change be flexible any startup or existing business can (Abdul & Mustapa, 2008). A business plan is a guide that outlines good for your business and how you plan to reach there. Any entrepreneur who wants funding for his startup or someone who is seeking to expand his business must present his business plan to the angle investor or venture capitalist (Rodrigues, 2015).

Sustainable business or green business is an enterprise that have minimum negative impact global or local environment, community, society, or economy in a business that able to balance the nature/ environment or profit/ revenue (Chen, 2015). Sustainable business is a progressive environmental and human right policies. Finally it is the business that makes the needs of present without compromising the future generation. In general business is designed as Green and it matches the following 4 - criteria:

  • It incorporate principle of sustainability and to reach of its business decisions.

  • It apply in environmentally friendly products or services that replaces demand for non-green product. For Example, Tesla Motor and Solar city of Elon Musk.

  • It is greater than traditional business.

  • It has made on a commitment to environmental principal and business operation.

Now I am planning to run a Smart School in Kathmandu Valley and the main object is to promote skill based education. The main aim of our business is to provide skill based education to all children and make them self-employed. But nowadays business process is going really challenging day by day because, in sustainable business we will have clean idea, strategies on environment and nature. And we have developed a "smart school” is a sustainable business. Because in school we have 500 students and they have 4 members and we have easy access to reach 2000 people. So we can convince them about nature, and how day by day nature is going damaged? So here, the three action that I can take as diced the sustainability lenses.

  • Environment related content design and develop

  • Awareness Program on sustainable business process

  • Re - use the chemical and other electronic products.

We are planning to make an environment related content and teach and aware those about environment, global warming, environmental issues and sustainable business, re cycle the material etc. After that we convince them to share their ideas, knowledge with their parents, friends and society after that family, society. We also plan to recycle the chemical and use old electronic goods, electrical instrument and computer parts for our maker space and students will be able to learn more and design a new product by using those old component.


Abdul, S., & Mustapa, S. (2008). Facility Management Challenges and Opportunities in the Sustaibale Business. Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 1 (2) , 79-85.

Chen, Y. (2015). The Drivers of Green Brand Equity: Green Brand Image, Green Satisfaction, and Green Trust. Journal of Business Ethics 93, 307-319, 2010, dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-009-0223-9 1 .

Rodrigues, A. J. (2015). Business Plan- The Secret to Success. The International Journal Of Business & Management , 3 (4), , 210-214.

dipadhungana profile image

Business plan is an efficient technique of combining various objectives of an organization into a logical arrangement to ensure that all the organizational activities are guided towards attainment of those objectives (Hormozi, Sutton, McMinn, & Lucio, 2002). It helps to identify probable opportunities and hurdles that business may encounter in future and remain prepared for handling them (Baliga & Rodrigues, 2015). In recent times, it has been very important to examine the business plans from the sustainability lens to make it a strategy and ensure existence, survival and growth of business in long run. As given by Spinelli and Adams, the actions that need to be focused looking through sustainability lens are:

Weak Ties

Weak ties refers to the relationship with unconventional partners who lie outside the immediate department or network and act as a bridge to the valuable contacts and information that cannot be easily accesses by the help of strong ties (Morgan, 2014). The people in weak ties will have new perspectives regarding the situation and can came up with fresh, new and innovative ideas that the like-minded people in strong ties may not think of that will help the organization to differentiate itself and gain competitive advantage which is must for a business to sustain.

For example: If there are certain changes in the labor law by the government, the owner of a manufacturing company may find it difficult to incorporate the changes in the operational process that may affect the business performance and sustainability. In such case, if s/he knows someone outside the organization who can help in dealing with the legal matter, it will help the company in adapting the changes and continue the operations without any interruption.

Systems Thinking

Due to globalization and technological advancement, the world has become smaller and a small change in any part of the world can impact every businesses. However, most of the organizations have tendency to formulate the strategies keeping in mind the current scenario of narrow environment like existing market and the industry it belongs to. This tendency prevents from thinking beyond the existing paradigm and looking for new opportunities in the areas that were not discovered or appreciated earlier. So, it is important to look the business as a complete system consisting of immediate as well as global factors and interconnect different variables with the organizational process that will help in monitoring the changes continuously to upgrade plans and policies and ensure business sustainability (Spinelli & Adams).

For example: If an organization is producing plastic water bottles and develop the strategy by observing the water bottle industry only and overlook the edible water bottle that has emerged to reduce the pollution caused due to the plastic bottles, there are chances that the organization will not survive when the customers start showing concern for the environmental protection and switch to edible water bottle. Thus, it has to look at the bigger picture and think about the ways it will compete against the edible water bottle once it will start capturing the market.

Thinking Like a Molecule

Unlike system thinking, thinking like molecule suggests to give attention on the immediate factors without losing the perspective of entire system that surrounds the business. This is similar to the concept of "think globally and act locally”. The changes in the large business spectrum are modified as per the local context or immediate environment to make sure that the business exists despite the changes. It helps to identify the changes in needs and preferences of consumers with the changes in global scenario and look for innovative ideas and ways to cater those needs in local level.

For example: The depletion of ozone layer is a world wide issue and the electronic companies located in every countries are using green chemistry technology to produce equipment that will release the least amount harmful chemicals to sell in their local market.


Baliga, A. J., & Rodrigues, L. R. (2015, April). Business Plan- The Secret to Success. The International Journal Of Business & Management, 3 (4), 210-215.

Hormozi, A. M., Sutton, G. S., McMinn, R. D., & Lucio, W. (2002). Business Plans for New or Small Businesses: Paving the Path to Success. Management Decisions , 755-763.

Morgan, J. (2014, March 11). Why Every Employee Should Be Building Weak Ties At Work. Retrieved from Forbes: forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/...

Spinelli, S., & Adams, R. J. (n.d.). New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century (Nineth ed.). Irwin: McGraw Hill Education.