The primary challenge facing any sustainability project is measurement.
Just look at the picture above and marvel at the chaos that humans can conjure!
Conceiving the project is (relatively) easy, rolling it out somewhat more difficult ...
But still relatively easy compared to the monitoring of the project once it has been performed.
There are a myriad+1 well-intentioned individuals and institutes seeking to promote sustainability.
Their agendas are sincere and their energies are multiplied by their passions.
On line green stores or national retailers selling green products can gauge the efficacy of their operations.
It is a simple formula – either the businesses are profitable – or they are not.
The consumers arrive in droves if the products have hit their mark, and the increased sales will ensure that the business is operating in the right direction.
Poverty alleviation and environmental issues belong to another realm.
And this is where despite the best of intentions one is almost working blind.
There are challenges in measurement and monitoring of these interventions that do not have the benefit of classical profit or loss book keeping as the reality check.
The physical environment ironically lends itself to being monitored somewhat easier by a variety of remote sensing devices, feeding signals back via satellite or cellular technology.
The devices themselves can be sun or wind powered and are essentially “plug and playable” in reality.
Monitoring sustainability at the level of households poses a far greater challenge.
I have just filled in the census form and am awaiting the census officer to come and collect.
The scale of this exercise is so massive that it can only be repeated every four or five years.
There is a major market research corporate that dominates the global landscape in its field.
It has the momentum of decades of market presence and a logistical operation of masses of field workers, visiting, questioning, and capturing information - the whole time.
The techniques in this approach have been refined and derived to the nth degree but the reality in the Law of Diminishing Returns cannot be cheated and these mechanistic approaches have peaked in their capacity to ‘feel’ the world that they have to explore and feedback in time.
Monitoring the cost/benefits ratio of say Corporate Social Investment can be done in such census-like ways – but it is far too expensive.
Ideally such measurement should be as effortless (well relatively speaking) as “leaves falling off trees”.