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In 2009 Ram Nidumolu, CK Prahalad and MR Rangaswami wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review declared sustainability to be the ‘key driver of innovation’ summarizing research of 30 large corporation in one key statement:

“Our research shows that sustainability is a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both bottom-line and top-line returns. Becoming environment-friendly lowers costs because companies end up reducing the inputs they use. In addition, the process generates additional revenues from better products or enables companies to create new businesses. In fact, because those are the goals of corporate innovation, we find that smart companies now treat sustainability as innovation’s new frontier.”

The statement backs up an up and coming belief that sustainability can work hand in hand with quality management rather than separately as previously believed. By using both ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 to improve the quality management control to support the sustainability of the business, both in reliable products and increased revenue.

How does Quality fuel sustainability?

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Quality improvements within a business, especially where compelled by ISO standards, help organizations to evaluate and improve their efficiency, reduce the waste, and improve the management processes. These actions can then, in turn, improve the competitive advantage of an organization and where they continuously make use of PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) will sustain that advantage.

Integrating quality controls throughout the processes, and collaborations between staff workers to reduce the bottlenecks, the wasted steps as well as encourage open communications to make improvements all assist in the sustainability of quality. The improvements to quality do not just apply to the product assembly lines but are also put in to practice before the product becomes a reality, with tools such as FMEA and CAPA being used during the design phases of a product.  The continuous use of such tools allows organizations to create products with lower risks and less chance of faulty products ending up in customers hands – meaning happier, and more loyal customers.

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Early in the development of Total Quality Management some organizations made the investment in to better improving their processes and end products – to which they benefited handsomely. Organizations such as Toyota and General Electric, who took quality management beyond the assembly line and the product design into the supply chain, to better develop the quality of materials used in the making of their products. The belief that quality management can also be used when it comes to behaviors meant that relationships were built stronger and more lasting than previously, creating sustainable relations with suppliers for high-quality goods.

Is it just about Quality in the product?

Quality does not just mean the quality of a product or its manufacturing process, it is also about the quality of relations within the organization. Whereas above we mentioned the supply chain relationship, there is also the relationship between managers and work staff within an organization. A workforce who feel comfortable going to managers with suggests, or even complaints, are taken care of in the health and safety aspects of things will overall be more motivated. They will feel respected and therefore happy to continuously input a high-quality level of effort where the organization is concerned. This level of trusts, and combined efforts within an organization help keep it moving throughout the years and sustaining its competitive advantage, as well as becoming known as an organization individuals want to work for.

If quality of processes and workforce treatment is high, then an organization has a greater chance of obtaining the sustained advantage, a sustained production of high-quality products and sustained happy workforce.