How To Build A Great Sustainability Policy

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

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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.

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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