Introduction to the IAQ Quality Sustainability Award

To improve sustainability is of the highest importance for mankind. Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations as development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Focus is on taking actions to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.

In general terms you may say that sustainable development is achieved in two ways: either customers and consumers start to ask for sustainable offerings and solutions and organizations respond to these requests and focus on the development of sustainable offerings and solutions (y-axis in fig 1) or  organizations use appropriate and sustainable resources developing these offerings and solutions while constantly using fewer resources and reducing waste (x-axis in fig 1).

Fig 1: Two ways to sustainable development

Over decades, the science of Quality Management has been developed to help organizations better understand the needs of customers and stakeholders so they can develop these offerings and solutions while also constantly innovating and improving and using fewer resources. Hence, in essence, Quality Management serves as a platform for sustainable development where customer and societal needs are met while constantly using fewer resources.

Most of the sustainability research and discussions going on today focus on effects. It is very important to understand the effects of our lifestyle on climate, limited resources, nature, people, etc., but the problem can´t be solved this way. Just focusing on effects of doing things will put light on the symptoms of man’s behaviors. To solve the problems behind negative effects on sustainability, focus has to be moved to the system behind those effects and their root causes. In this way necessary actions could be identified by systematic problem-solving activities, value-based process development and innovative methods. Knowledge areas that are foundations for quality management.

The International Academy for Quality (IAQ) and a large number of quality researchers/professionals have for a long time tried to spread knowledge about how to transform today’s symptom-focused sustainability approach to a more improvement-focused approach that really makes a difference by delivering real measurable results. Many papers and articles have been written, presentations have been made at numerous conferences around the world and theoretical models have been developed to show the link between quality and sustainability. Some progress has been made but the need of empirical proof and examples of real improvement activities that have delivered effects/results within the area of sustainability is strong.

The purpose of the IAQ Quality Sustainability Award is therefore to identify and share good examples of how quality management principles have been used to develop more sustainable solutions and offerings while also reducing waste and optimizing the use of resources. By sharing such good examples and success stories, the skills to create more result-focused sustainability work will increase and the possibility to link important knowledge and competence within the field of quality management into today’s sustainability activities will be increased. Another important purpose is to create a public database of good examples linking quality management to sustainability for future research, learning and benchmarking in order to facilitate leverage.