WHAT MAKES A SUSTAINABILITY REPORT A GREAT SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

This article looks into what makes a sustainability report a great sustainability report. What makes a report memorable, what makes it stand out from the crowd?

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These days, sustainability reporting has become a mainstream activity.

gold

As you can see from the chart above, once you reach the stage where 82% of companies in the S&P 500 are reporting on their sustainability performance, you definitely have a mainstream activity.

There are lots of sustainability reports published every year. Many are dull and uninspiring. Others are difficult to read and full of technical jargon, indecipherable to all but the most committed experts.

In this article, I will go through what I consider to be the key ingredients that separate a run of the mill sustainability report from a great sustainability report.

1.  Vision

Great sustainability reports exude vision. They communicate to their stakeholders that they aim to dominate their industry, but do so in a way that takes less from the earth socially and environmentally.

Visions are powerful things. For more information on sustainability visions, please visit the link below.

HOW TO CREATE A GREAT SUSTAINABILITY VISION

One of the best sustainability reports that I have come across for vision, would be ARM’s 2015 report. You can find a link for this below.

Sustainability in a connected world

The report begins with their bold vision that:

Our mission is to deploy ARM-based technology, wherever computing happens.”

This is the sort of bold vision that employees, investors and other stakeholders can rally around.

Later they boast of their 488 engineers working on “blue sky” programmes. This is exactly the kind of progress that is needed to make sustainability happen.

ARM’s integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) into their report is also first rate. What is more impressive though, is their ability and ambition to contribute in some small way to all 17 of these exponential goals.

I understand not all businesses can be like ARM. But I have seen a trend towards businesses giving up before they have even begun and declaring that only a small number are relevant to their business. They are all relevant.

Visions are powerful things. Peter Senge said it best in The Fifth Discipline that:

It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.

So many bland visions fail to inspire anyone and probably didn’t even inspire the person who wrote them. ARM hit the sweet spot with their 2015 report, managing to blend crushing business acumen with care for society and the environment.

The key takeaway is that if you want your sustainability report to be great  and stand out, create an authentic, inspiring vision and run with it. You’ll know when you get there.

2.  Stories

Alongside visions, stories are powerful phenomena. They can make the big and complex small and easy to understand. This is certainly helpful in sustainability.

The ability to tell a story or stories can transform your sustainability report from being good to being great. It can make investors think differently about your business, it can make your current employees want to stay or prospective candidates want to join your business. It can make your sustainability report stand out.

Stories are the bridge that connects your sustainability data into real and meaningful information that is useful and memorable to the reader. There is so much information out there, there are so many reports. If you tell a story or series of stories in your report, there is a good chance that that is what the reader will remember.

In this regard, one of the best sustainability reports that I have seen integrate powerful stories was Carillion’s 2016 sustainability report. You can find a link to this below.

How we’re making tomorrow a better place

Carillion integrate inspiring stories about the people who actually deliver their international operations throughout the report.

There are stories about health and safety achievements in the UK, decent living and working conditions in the Middle East, customer service excellence in the UK, training and work placements in Liverpool and stories about wind and hydro power in Canada.

The report takes you on a real journey. Unlike other reports it comes across as very bottom up and participatory and not top down and hierarchical. It comes across as authentic. The stories take you on a journey, they are touching and they are memorable.

The key takeaway if you want to create a great sustainability report is to tell powerful stories. Tell one or tell many. Make it inspirational and make the report seem like the work of the entire company and not just the sustainability team and the board.

3.   Move people

Great sustainability reports move people. They are more than the sum of their parts. If a report is great it will be read by more people than you think.

Words are powerful. When used in the right order they can inspire people and make sustainability irresistible. You never know who might be reading your report.

Maybe someone from within or outside your business has become complacent about sustainability. You can touch them; you can move them from complacency.

There may be others who are just drifting and not yet fully on board and engaged in the sustainability process. You can move them.

There may be readers who are taken a back by one of your stories. They could be a millionaire or someone of modest means. But you can move them with your stories.

Maybe you did something remarkable last year. Just by writing down what happened, you can move people.

Maybe your business had a dilemma; maybe you were bold enough to communicate about your failures as well as your successes. You can touch people with your honesty.

Maybe you have a wicked problem, which you are not sure you can solve. A reader could be touched by your problem. They could reach out to you. Stranger things have happened.

This happened to me this year whilst I was reading the Canary Wharf Group 2016 sustainability report. You can find a link to this below.

EVOLUTION 2016 SUSTAINABILITY REPORT

It is a fantastic report. I was moved by their vision for sustainability in the built environment, I was touched by their focus on wellbeing and climate change adaptation and I was inspired by their action on waste minimisation and recycling. Just by writing things down you can move people, you can change who people are.

The key takeaway if you want to create a great sustainability report is that you need to move people. The stakes are so high and the competition is so intense, that if you don’t move people, your report will not stand out.

What you need to know

This article looked into what makes a sustainability report a great sustainability report. We looked into what makes a report stand out from the crowd. The key areas that I identified are as follows:

1.  Vision

2.   Stories

3.   Move people

A bold vision will inspire your employees and hook readers in.

Stories used throughout your report will give context to your report and make it memorable.

When creating your report you should aim to move people. Don’t aim to be good, aim to be remarkable. Great sustainability reports move people. They change how the reader thinks about things. By changing how people think, your report can have an exponential impact.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. What do you think makes a sustainability report great? It’s good to hear other people’s thoughts and opinions.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

HOW TO CREATE A GREAT SUSTAINABILITY VISION

This article investigates the key ingredients of a great sustainability vision.

sunrise

Visions can be powerful things. They can inspire people, organisations, countries and even continents.  The type of vision that I will talk about here is distinct from a corporate vision statement. These can often be shallow regurgitations of corporate-speak, rarely seen or heard outside of business pamphlets and landing pages.

The type of vision I seek to explore is the type of vision that has the possibility of changing society, the environment and in the process change the world.

Some of the best writing I have come across on the power of visions is by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline. His quotation below makes clear the distinction between a great vision and a vision statement.

When there is a genuine vision (as opposed to the all-too-familiar “vision statement”), people excel and learn, not because they are told to, but because they want to.

For those without time to read The Fifth Discipline Rana Lahiri has helpfully picked out some of the best quotations from the book and put them in one place. You can find this via the link below. I would still recommend reading the original text as it contains some powerful insights.

Some of the Fifth Discipline Quotes ― Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline

Let’s now turn to the key ingredients of a great sustainability vision.

1.     Energy

A commitment to sustainable energy should be a core component of any sustainability vision.

I don’t think that this should be referenced in terms of “cutting our carbon footprint by X by X date.” I think we can afford to be a bit more ambitious than that.

In terms of the energy used on fixed sites, this should be referenced in terms of procuring 100% of the energy used from renewable sources by X date. A couple of years ago, this would have been a quantum leap, but now is the time to start making ambitious goals like this a reality.

It is interesting how fossil fuels are often portrayed as needed because of energy independence issues. When renewable energy offers these same independence benefits, in a distributed manner and creates sustainable jobs and industries in the process. A better world is possible and action taken on energy procurement is needed to make it a reality.

In terms of energy used on mobile sites, there should be a commitment to having all transport take place on electric vehicles by X date. This might sound extraordinarily ambitious, but it actually isn’t. Recent developments within the electric vehicle market have begun to snowball and the transition could happen quicker than you think.

The key is to look for joined up thinking as by supporting renewable energy production, this has a spin off benefit that the electricity used to power vehicles will be more sustainable too.

The key takeaway is that nothing less than a commitment to 100% renewable energy and 100% electric vehicles is needed for a great sustainability vision.

2.   Water

Water is a key component of the sustainability equation and so should be central to any sustainability vision.

If you operate in the food and drink industry then water will be front and centre in your sustainability vision. However if you operate in other industries it will still be very important.

The key is to look for ways of reconstituting your operations. Water that doesn’t need to be used doesn’t need to be extracted.

This could take the form of highly efficient irrigation techniques & construction techniques that are less water intensive. There is also significant scope to look for techniques that maximise reuse of the same water many times.

For service sector businesses, there is certainly the opportunity to invest in waterless sanitation infrastructure. This is the sort of technology which offers the possibility for exponential cuts in water use, admittedly from a low amount.

There is more leverage available to service sector businesses if they link their vision to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These are ambitious targets covering all aspects of sustainability. Goal 6 to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” is particularly relevant. By attaching your business to achieving this and other goals, you can have an enormous impact. This can be done via partner organisations and charities and those relationships can be enormously valuable.

The key takeaway is that water, being a critical component of the sustainability equation needs to be included in any sustainability vision. To make a vision great, it must include radical goals for reducing the use of water and reusing it where possible.

3.   Waste

A bold commitment on waste needs to be included to make a sustainability vision great.

This comes in two parts. It should include following the waste hierarchy to prevent the creation of waste altogether. It would therefore make sense to make becoming zero waste an organisational priority by X date. Although it may sound fantastical to some readers, with the right mind-set and a determination to eliminate and segregate wherever necessary, it is definitely possible.

The second part covers recycling. There should be a commitment to recycling every Kg of material possible. In the beginning as an intermediate target that would look like an 85% recycling target. But as you work towards becoming zero waste, the flip side of that is that you would become a 100% recycling business.

Achieving both of these targets involves a lot of work with suppliers and changing suppliers when they are not sufficiently interested in sustainability. Preference should be shown towards suppliers who supply goods with a high recycled content, who design for disassembly or who incorporate some form of reverse logistics into their business model.

The key takeaway is that ambitious targets around zero waste and 100% recycling are the cornerstone of any great sustainability vision. They are things that people can see and understand intuitively. But they will not happen unless there are ambitious targets, employees are galvanised and waste is removed from processes by design.

4.   A commitment to being good

A commitment to being good is an essential ingredient to making any sustainability vision great. At first this might sound obvious, but this is not the case.

Many sustainability vison’s make the mistake of aiming to be “less bad.” This is certainly better than doing nothing at all. But the real prize is to use sustainability to be a good business.

A good business does all of the things we have mentioned to ensure they have a very low or no environmental impact. They also seek to operate in a responsible manner so that their actions do not take from society.

But good businesses go further than this and seek to actively make the world a better place. They engage themselves directly in building a better world and enlist their customers in this process.

Seeing as a video is worth a million words, I encourage readers to watch the We First video on exactly this topic by clicking the link below.

The We First Manifesto 2017

The key takeaway is that being less bad is not enough to make a sustainability vision great, it must contain an explicit commitment to being a good business.

What you need to know

This article investigated the key ingredients of a great sustainability vision. The key elements of a great sustainability vision are bold action on the following areas.

1.     Energy

2.    Water

3.    Waste

4.    A commitment to being good

Visions need to be bold and ambitious if they are to inspire employees, attract customers and gain traction within the media.

The biggest crime that many visions commit is to lack ambition and to aim too low. These visions don’t affect any change and they pass like a ship in the night.

In summary, the most important element of a great sustainability vison is commitments to bold and far reaching action. These commitments then need to be followed up with hard work and bold action.

I will leave you with a cryptic message from Peter Senge that will hopefully inspire readers to create their own great sustainability vision.

It’s not what the vision is, it’s what the vision does.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby 

 

 

HOW TO BECOME A SUSTAINABILITY LEADER

This article investigates the steps businesses need to take to become a recognised sustainability leader. This could be within their own field, or it could be as a cross industry sustainability champion.

Beech trees during springtime

Just as it is not easy to become the recognised leader for having the lowest costs or highest quality, neither is it an easy process to become a sustainability leader. It requires ambition, commitment and dedication.

But sustainability is the most important transformation happening in business right now. Fortunately many farsighted businesses have realised the benefits that an organisational focus on sustainability can bring. These leaders prove what is possible.

Let’s now turn to the steps businesses need to follow to become a sustainability leader.

1.     Be honest

Being honest about your environmental performance is the first step to becoming a sustainability leader.

The 20th Century was dominated by businesses chasing success through ultra high levels of secrecy. Industrial espionage was rampant and companies dared not share information about their environmental performance for fear of losing a competitive advantage to their rivals.

However in the 21st Century it will be the businesses that disclose the most and the businesses that demonstrate the most responsibility that will be the most successful.

With respect to annual sustainability reporting, it is obviously important to disclose everything good that your business has been working on that year. But sustainability leaders go further, disclosing in detail what hasn’t worked that year and why.

But sustainability leaders go further than just reporting on their sustainability performance using standard metrics on an annual basis.

Take PUMA for example, which was the world’s first major company to put a value on its environmental impact.

I am minded to quote Peter Drucker, whose belief that “What gets measured gets improved” is certainly still true today.

PUMA’s first environmental profit and loss account revealed that their direct ecological impact equated to £6.2m and £74.7m was created by its supply chain.

This was a ground-breaking report and it should encourage other businesses to follow suit if they wish to become sustainability leaders.

To find out more, please visit the link below.

PUMA Environmental Profit and Loss Account

2.     Become a circular business

Circular economy business models are an excellent way to demonstrate leadership in sustainability.

Whilst they are challenging to execute, with the right mind-set and a determination to succeed and breakthrough, they can be achieved.

It could be argued that it is easier to design a circular business from scratch than it is to introduce circular thinking into an existing business. If they are being introduced to an existing business, it will require a commitment to a new paradigm, rather than incremental improvement to an existing business model.

An excellent recent example is AO the online electricals retailer, who will become the UK’s largest fridge recycler, after merging with The Recycling Group (TRG).

Retailer set to become the UK’s largest fridge recycler

This is exactly the sort of ambitious move that defines sustainability leaders from the rest. Sustainability leaders know that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of what happens to their products once they are no longer useful to them. They use circular thinking to address customer needs from cradle to cradle.

3.     How you sell is as important as what you sell

Sustainability leaders see their business as a system. They realise that how they sell their products and services is as important as what they sell.

The first step on the sustainability ladder is to develop products and services with greater environmental performance. However, to become a sustainability leader, a greater number of areas must be addressed.

This should also be seen as risk reduction activity. Whether it is the normally whiter than white Glastonbury being caught up in a labour sting:

Glastonbury Festival accused of exploiting hundreds of European workers on zero hours contracts

Or the under fire Starbucks being accused of wasting water:

Starbucks ‘wastes 23 million litres of water each day’

Sustainability leaders would have addressed these issues before they became problems. They find ways of operating that take less from the earth socially and environmentally.

4.     Exploit opportunities

Sustainability leaders exploit opportunities to outcompete and stay ahead of their rivals.

They are not concerned with what the crowd are doing. These sustainability leaders use sustainability to win business, to enshrine loyalty and to lead conversations.

This could be done as part of a rebuilding project, or as a final step towards the summit of mount sustainability. Whatever path they take, sustainability leaders always exploit opportunities.

An excellent example in this regard would be Lego. Their determination to produce products from sustainable materials as well as addressing other environmental aspects has left them in a position of dominance within their industry on sustainability.

How Lego Rebuilt Itself As A Purposeful And Sustainable Brand

Sustainability leaders know that where they find business and environmental interests in alignment, that they should pursue and exploit that opportunity.

5.     Create a movement

Sustainability leaders don’t just seek to create a profitable and sustainable businesses. They seek to lead a movement.

By leading a movement they change their own business, but they also change their industry and society in the process.

They seek to create raving fans, who evangelise about their business at every opportunity. Because of this, they can afford to have minimal and in some cases non-existent marketing and advertising budgets.

Take Tesla for example. Look at the electric car market before and after their entry. They have undoubtedly created and are leading a movement.

tesla.png

What you need to know

This article investigated the steps businesses need to take to become a recognised sustainability leader.

Becoming known as a sustainability leader within one field or as a cross industry sustainability champion is not easy. But by addressing and excelling in the following areas, businesses can make progress towards sustainability leadership. They are:

1.     Be honest

2.    Become a circular business

3.    How you sell is as important as what you sell

4.    Exploit opportunities

5.    Create a movement

The examples shown throughout prove what is possible. Sustainability leadership, although challenging to achieve, is ultimately rewarding.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

How To Overcome Barriers To Sustainability?

This article covers three barriers to sustainability and how to overcome them.

businessmanhurdle-2015-Nov30

The barriers to sustainability are:

1.      Institution inertia

2.     Capital expenditure

3.     Perfect timing

These form common barriers to sustainability and are encountered by businesses across sectors and locations.

Choices are personal and value is highly subjective. The organisations who fail to overcome these barriers make a choice to see them as insurmountable. They don’t value sustainability, but this has more to do with the way they approach it.

The businesses that are succeeding on sustainability do so because they view overcoming these barriers as crucial to business success. They look for the opportunities that sustainability offers. Such as opportunities to engage their employees, connect with outside audiences and financial benefits.

They view corporate sustainability as being about more than just being less bad. That sort of message will never inspire mass audiences. When corporate sustainability becomes focussed on opportunity maximisation and building a better world it becomes inspirational and people rally around their cause.

Let’s turn to how to overcome these barriers to sustainability.

1.     Institution inertia

Institutional inertia is a common barrier to sustainability. It is defined as:

An organization will remain at rest or if already moving it will continue on the same path unless acted upon by another force. The larger the organization, the more force required.

A number of factors combine to make organisations rigid and resistant to change. These include factors such as excessively hierarchical structures, office politics and a culture that doesn’t celebrate experimentation and innovation.

However an excellent quotation by Rear Admiral Grace Hopper shreds the idea that the way an organisation is currently constituted is likely to be the best possible way. She recounts:

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’

Grace Hopper is correct. Particularly with regards to sustainability, where many businesses are on a journey towards this goal, but with few businesses having achieved this status, things have to change.

If institutional inertia is the problem, the question is what is the solution?

The key is to provide employees with information. This is critical. Information is needed both of the nature of the problem and what individuals’ roles are in solving them.

Information

The first part can be achieved through posters and internal reporting. Often if people are aware that certain behaviours have an excessively negative impact, they change their behaviour. But to do that, they need information in a clear and easy to understand format.

A great set of examples that I consult frequently is in the blog below:

http://jayce-o.blogspot.com/2013/10/recycling-posters-creative-examples-recycling-posters.html

Individual incentives

To really effect change on the scale that is needed, action is required to relate sustainability changes to individual actions.

An area that is emerging and that has the potential to transform sustainability at an organisational level is the linking of sustainability performance indicators to individual incentives.

This can be done by awarding prizes and benefits for departments or buildings that are performing strongly on sustainability. People are competitive. Particularly in highly charged business environments, people have a tendency to be highly competitive.

By linking sustainability to individual incentives, people have a reason to become engaged. This strategy offers leverage and the potential to accelerate sustainable change within organisations.

2.   Capital expenditure

Many businesses view capital expenditure as a barrier to sustainability.

Businesses that view capital expenditure as a barrier are looking at the sustainability equation the wrong way. Businesses that succeed in sustainability will be aware that success in this arena is a major point of competition between companies.

Increasingly customers and other stakeholders expect companies to be excelling in sustainability. By ignoring this area companies stand to lose out.

Sustainable solutions are often cheaper when lifecycle costs of use, maintenance and disposal are accounted for. Sustainable solutions are almost always cheaper when externalities are taken into consideration. Responsible businesses consider the externalities of their operations when investing.

Capital expenditure may also be necessary to keep hold of existing customers or to attract new environmentally aware consumers. This shouldn’t be seen as a cost at all, rather a necessity to compete in business in the 21st century.

3.   Perfect timing

Attempting to achieve perfect timing is another common barrier to sustainability within businesses.

Achieving perfect timing for sustainability is an impossible challenge. Sustainability is a fast moving area and technology continues to develop at a rapid pace.

The real question is do you want to be a responsible business? If the answer is yes, then the best time to start investing in sustainability and developing a sustainability strategy is now.

Your business will not develop a recognised position on sustainability overnight. Green consumers won’t evangelise about your brand immediately. Real and meaningful change takes time.

When thinking about sustainability, I like to think about the Henry Ford quotation:

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.

What does your company or brand represent? What does it mean to work for your businesses? Sustainability is integral to these questions and more.

Sustainability is about building a better world. Many businesses and consumers are actively looking to shop and invest with sustainable businesses. If your businesses sustainability credentials aren’t up to shape, they will go elsewhere. The best time to start your sustainability journey is now.

What you need to know

This article looked at three barriers to sustainability and how businesses can overcome them.

The barriers to sustainability are:

1.      Institution inertia

2.     Capital expenditure

3.     Perfect timing

Institutional inertia can be overcome by delivering clear information to your employees and by aligning individual incentives with sustainability performance indicators. That should help to create a culture that celebrates sustainability and change.

Capital expenditure should never have become a barrier to sustainability. Nevertheless, it can be overcome by reframing sustainability from something which is nice to have, to something which is essential to business success.

Achieving perfect timing for sustainability is an impossible challenge. It should therefore not act as a barrier to action on sustainability. To attract environmentally aware customers and candidates to your business, your approach has to be authentic. That takes time. Therefore the best time to start bold action on sustainability is now.

With the right mind set, barriers to sustainability can be overcome. The trick is to focus on the opportunities that sustainability can deliver. This is an exciting time in the history of sustainability. What could be more exciting than being part of a movement to build a better world?

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.

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

How To Begin Your Sustainability Journey

This article sets out three steps that companies should take to begin their sustainability journey.

By following these steps, companies can go from a position of obscurity on sustainability to developing a recognised position in this field.

sustainability plain.png

1.     Audit environmental performance

Carrying out an environmental audit is a crucial first step in a company’s journey towards sustainability.

Magagement guru Peter Drucker once remarked:

You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure

This timeless management adage is still accurate today. It is highly relevant for companies beginning their sustainability journey.

Carbon footprint

The best way to perform an environmental audit is to carry out a carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is a read out which describes the level of greenhouse gasses (GHG) produced by an organisation or activity.

This will give you a baseline so that you can adjust and perfect your sustainability management into the future. It allows you to analyse your environmental management with respect to climate change and allows you to set overall and sector specific emission reduction targets for your business.

It is also an awareness issue. Many businesses operate completely unaware of the environmental impacts of their activities. When businesses become aware that some activities have an environmental impact that is hugely disproportionate to the benefits they receive, they are more likely to take steps to change their behaviour.

For some large organisations, this can be a compliance issue, but for many this is about going beyond compliance and operating in a responsible manner. Measuring and reporting on your carbon footprint on an annual basis is a first step in any businesses journey towards sustainability.

Life cycle analysis

A carbon footprint is an essential first step. But for businesses that are engaged in construction or manufacturing a life cycle analysis (LCA) is needed. LCA’s should be carried out on all existing and proposed products and projects.

LCA is a technique which assesses the environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product or project’s life. It analyses this from the extraction of raw materials, to the materials processing stage, the manufacturing stage, and the distribution, use, repair and maintenance stages. Importantly it analyses the disposal and/or recycling stages. This is why this technique is also sometimes referred to as cradle-to-grave analysis.

Once completed LCA’s give businesses vital information that can be fed into management decisions going forward.  The data is highly supportive of business strategy and research and design. But LCA’s can also form part of a marketing strategy, whereby you label products with declarations of their environmental performance.

For carbon footprints and LCA’s, the measurement itself is important. But what you do with the information going forward is imperative. It needs to be acted on and to guide management decisions. These are both important steps in an organisations journey towards sustainability.

2.   Introduce a corporate social responsibility programme

The introduction of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme is an essential second step for any business beginning their sustainability journey.

Sustainability is about more than just looking after the planet. It is about people and profits too. The social element of sustainability is crucial and if it is left unaddressed, sustainability has not been achieved.

Some key issues to be addressed in a CSR programme include:

  • Internal stakeholder engagement
    • Employees
    • Managers
  • External stakeholder engagement
    • Suppliers
    • Society
    • Government
    • Creditors
    • Shareholders
    • Customers
  • Community investment
    • Time
    • Money

Where it is possible, companies should try to engage with advocacy groups. This could come about as a result of an employee who develops a relationship with a charity through a volunteer programme. Or a group could be identified and engaged with on the basis of specific expertise that they possess.

The point is that sustainability is about reaching out to others and developing meaningful and long lasting partnerships with likeminded business and charities.

Introducing a CSR programme is increasingly expected by your stakeholders and can be a highly rewarding experience. It is an essential second step for any business beginning their sustainability journey.

3.   Introduce a sustainable procurement programme

Introducing a sustainable procurement programme is a third step that companies should take in their journey towards sustainability.

This builds on the LCA’s from the first step as it will be important to introduce life cycle thinking into your procurement decisions.

The old saying:

You buy cheap, you buy twice

Is certainly still true today. Often products with cheaper initial outlays have higher lifetime costs when use and disposal are taken into account. There are increasing numbers of ways to engage in product service contracts where you rent the good that you want from a manufacturer and return it for remanufacture when upgrades are available. This is an excellent way to procure sustainably.

Other factors to consider in a sustainable procurement programme include:

  • Procure raw materials from recognised responsible sourcing schemes
  • Where possible procure from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises
  • Ensure that ethical, human rights and labour standards are met when procuring from emerging markets
  • Eliminate wasteful spending on goods which are not used or not completely used

Introducing a sustainable procurement programme is a great way to manage your resources more efficiently. It encourages cost savings and profitability is a key element of sustainability. A sustainable procurement programme is the right thing to do and it is a third step that companies should take in their journey towards sustainability.

What you need to know

This article set out three steps that companies should take to begin their sustainability journey.

If followed through correctly, companies can develop a recognised position on sustainability. They include:

1.      Audit environmental performance

2.     Introduce a corporate social responsibility programme

3.     Introduce a sustainable procurement programme

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

How To Build A Great Sustainability Strategy

This article proposes four steps that companies should undertake in order to build a great sustainability strategy.

strategy

Strategy is about decision making for the future. Sustainability is about building a better world. It is unsurprising then, that when these forces are combined, they can become a potent force for change.

However, to really change the world, good sustainability strategies aren’t enough, great sustainability strategies are needed. Strategy is important, because a well thought out strategy makes for effective execution.

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies should:

1.     Find strengths and build on them

2.    Find weaknesses and overcome them

3.    Improve research abilities and processes

4.    Look ahead and reason back

 

1.     Find strengths and build on them

Strategy is fundamentally important to business decisions.

The value of strategy is that it allows businesses to get results that are meaningful and impactful. It therefore makes sense for the first step in this process to be focussed on opportunity maximisation. If a business already has strengths in a particular area, it will be easier to link these strengths to a great sustainability strategy.

Finding strengths and building on them, is the best way for sustainability advocates to get non-sustainability departments engaged and supportive of their activities.

2.   Find weaknesses and overcome them

A sustainability strategy provides opportunities to find weaknesses and overcome them.

Building a great sustainability strategy necessitates that you look at your business differently. It forces you to look at your business as a system.

Perhaps your company has a problem with stakeholder engagement? Sustainability provides opportunities to engage with external stakeholders and to create meaning together.

Perhaps your company has a problem with the way it is perceived. An organisational sustainability strategy provides you with an opportunity to authentically invest in making the world a better place. This can dramatically enhance the way your company is perceived by external audiences.

3.   Improve research abilities and processes

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies need to improve their research abilities and processes.

The father of advertising David Ogilvy once remarked:

Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.

I think we can borrow some of David’s wisdom and link it to the sustainability challenge. You could say:

Never stop testing, and your sustainability will never stop improving. 

In order to be a recognised leader in sustainability, companies must allocate resources towards research in this field. This has to be an ongoing process, which is constantly monitored, updated and fed into the sustainability strategy.

To create an authentic and impactful sustainability strategy, it has to be grounded in science. The research and processes should be based on Life Cycle Analysis and Multi Criteria Analysis of the various options under surveillance.

These processes once acted upon are rewarding and are integral to creating a great sustainability strategy.

4.   Look ahead and reason back

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies need to look ahead and reason back.

Sustainability is about decision making for the future. Companies need to think about their environmental and social impacts, and tie that in to a strategy that helps them be profitable in the long run.

Sustainability is the most important conversation happening in business right now. It is a huge challenge that will stay with business for most of this century. It therefore makes sense to tie sustainability in to a company’s dominant strategy. Bolt on sustainability strategies which bear no resemblance to a company’s dominant strategy are inauthentic and run the risk of being derided as greenwash. With the power of the internet, consumers and investors have sufficient information at their disposal to determine the authenticity of a company’s sustainability strategy.

Think big, think bold. Think about various environmental and social trends and reason back to the present day. That is the best way to create a great sustainability strategy. You should certainly be aware of what other companies are doing. But to be truly remarkable, try and think independently about how your company can invest in making the world a better place.

What you need to know

This article explored how to build a great sustainability strategy. To build a great sustainability strategy, companies should:

1.     Find strengths and build on them

2.    Find weaknesses and overcome them

3.    Improve research abilities and processes

4.    Look ahead and reason back

By following these steps and thinking very hard and very systemically about trends and what kind of business they want to be in the future businesses can create a great sustainability strategy.

This is an ongoing process that needs to be monitored and updated. But if it is followed through correctly, it will have a meaningful impact on their business. The value of an effective sustainability strategy is that it communicates to your internal and external stakeholders that you are a responsible business and that you are committed long-term profitability and stewardship.

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