How To Build A Great Sustainability Policy

This article sets out six steps to follow if companies want to build a great sustainability policy.

sustainability-venn-diagram

The objective of creating a sustainability policy is to provide guidance for the decisions taken by senior executives and managers going forward.

It should not be confined to the sustainability department or persons concerned with sustainability. It should represent the organisation as a whole and its aims and aspirations for the future.

Many sustainability communications are dull and uninspiring. By following these steps, you will be able to build a great sustainability policy that engages your employees and connects with outside audiences.

1.     Spell out values

Spelling out values is a crucial first step to creating a great sustainability policy.

Sustainability is at its best when it is on the territory of values. Many economists and those hostile to sustainability appear to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

This is where a sustainability policy is helpful. It communicates to your stakeholders that you are committed to long-term profitability as well as operating in a responsible manner.

Focus on what your business does that’s remarkable. Every business does something that’s remarkable. Then try and build your policy values around that. That is the best way to create an exciting and believable sustainability policy.

2.   Establish procedures

Establishing procedures is a crucial second step to creating a great sustainability policy.

Establishing who is responsible for executing on the sustainability policy is important.

Is it the board, if so whom is ultimately responsible within the board. Will it be senior management the head of CSR, CSO or the CEO? These are all possibilities, but putting a name, preferably someone who evangelises about sustainability and has leverage within the organisation in charge will make a big difference.

3.   Set a revision timetable

Setting a revision timetable is a crucial third step to creating a great sustainability policy.

This might seem like a strange area to prioritise at the half way stage, but I will explain. Sustainability is a fast moving area. New developments, new technologies and new problems mean that no policy is time proof or could last forever.

Setting out a revision timetable of every three years, every five years or every decade will mean that your business schedules in time to refresh and update its sustainability policy going forward.

Room should also be made for how feedback from outside and inside the organisation can be incorporated into the policy. The best ideas often come from the most unexpected places. Make sure people are aware that their feedback and ideas are not just welcome, but expected. That way they are more likely to come forward.

4.   Set a communication strategy

Setting a communications strategy is a crucial fourth step to creating a great sustainability policy.

In many ways, communication is the missing link in sustainability. If your business has taken the time to create a fantastic sustainability policy, then you should communicate this to as many people as possible.

Achieving sustainability is a massive challenge. It is only with the cooperation of everyone that change on the scale that is needed can be achieved.  By communicating your sustainability policy widely, to customers, partners and the media, you can play a role in engaging mass audiences in support of sustainability.

5.    Plan for the long-term

Planning for the long-term is a crucial fifth step to creating a great sustainability policy.

The policy should be substantial enough to effect real change, but not put off so far into the future that individuals can find reasons not to comply. I have a preference for 10 year glide paths towards sustainable outcomes, with 5% year on year improvements.

In 10 years, strategies like the one outlined above can cut an organizations carbon footprint by 50% in that time. After only 1 year it would seem like not much has changed. But sustainability is a long distance journey and the evidence is growing that it is one worth taking.

6.   Set goals and targets

Setting goals and targets is a crucial last step to creating a great sustainability policy.

Specific objectives need to be developed for the entire company as well as targets for specific units within that organisation. Managers can then use these targets within their individual business units on a day to day basis.

These goals and targets should be ambitious and audited at regular intervals to ensure that they are fulfilled.

What you need to know

This article proposed six steps that companies should follow to build a great sustainability policy. They are:

1.     Spell out values

2.    Establish procedures

3.    Set a revision timetable

4.    Set a communication strategy

5.    Plan for the long-term

6.    Set goals and targets

These steps, if executed on will help a business develop a recognised position on sustainability.

We will learn more about sustainability in subsequent posts.

Thank you for reading

By Barnaby Nash

Contact Details

Mobile: 07745 904 128

Email: barnaby.nash@gmail.com

Blog: barnabythinks.wordpress.com

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