Agile Sustainability: Building a Greener Future through People, Planet, and Profit

Comparative Agility
3 min readJun 5, 2023

In one of our latest podcast episodes, we hosted the authors behind the Agile sustainability assessment, Steve Holyer, Jutta Eckstein, and Claudia Melo joining Simon Hilton to discuss the origins of Agile sustainability and its importance. As they share their stories, it becomes evident that their passion for sustainability and the desire to make a positive impact brought them together.

Steve, originally from the US, had once believed that his move to Switzerland was his contribution to sustainability. However, a profound encounter with penguins made him realize that more needed to be done. Inspired to use his Agile knowledge to make a difference, Steve joined forces with Jutta and Claudia, who shared his vision of leveraging Agile practices to address sustainability challenges.

The concept of sustainability can be subjective, with individuals having varying interpretations. To provide clarity, the team highlights different perspectives. Jutta explains the United Nations’ definition of sustainable development, emphasizing the need to meet present needs without compromising future generations. Additionally, they discuss the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals that cover various aspects of sustainability. However, they also acknowledge the need for a practical approach that considers the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit.

The Pillars of Sustainability:

Jutta, Steve, and Claudia explain the pillars of sustainability, beginning with “people.” They emphasize that sustainability encompasses social principles such as equity, health, and livability. The UN’s sustainable development goals stress the importance of inclusivity, accessibility, and diversity. From a software development perspective, they emphasize the need to develop products that cater to a diverse range of users, avoiding biases and ensuring inclusivity.

Moving to the “planet” pillar, they acknowledge that environmental sustainability is a crucial aspect often associated with the concept. They highlight the issue of electronic waste and the responsibility of software developers to support older hardware to minimize waste. Furthermore, they emphasize the need to consider the carbon footprint of software systems and the environmental impact of digital technologies.

The third pillar, “profit,” focuses on economic sustainability. The team discusses the importance of ensuring that sustainable practices are economically viable. By integrating sustainable practices into business strategies, organizations can achieve long-term profitability while minimizing negative environmental and social impacts.

A Holistic Approach:

Throughout the discussion, Jutta, Steve, and Claudia emphasize that sustainability cannot be addressed in isolation. The three pillars of sustainability are interconnected, and a holistic view is necessary to achieve meaningful progress. They also caution against reducing sustainability to a narrow focus, such as sustainable pace, highlighting the need to consider social and environmental aspects alongside economic factors.

Conclusion:

The Agile sustainability capability brings together the expertise of Steve, Jutta, and Claudia to help organizations adopt sustainable practices. By considering the three pillars of sustainability, people, planet, and profit, they aim to create a greener future. This podcast conversation highlights the importance of broadening the understanding of sustainability and leveraging Agile principles to drive positive change. Together, we can create a world where sustainability is at the core of our actions, benefiting both current and future generations.

Tune into the full episode here.

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