10 Tips to Improve your Corporate Sustainability
Some excellent steps every sustainability manager should consider. The points touch on sustainability strategy, auditing sustainability practices, translating sustainability objectives and accomplishments into financial terms, stakeholder management and sustainability marketing.
We will be doing a series of post related to the specific points made in this article. Check back each week for the latest post!
By: J.Parmar, HRCarbon Inc.
1. Link your sustainability strategy to your business plan
It is surprising how many organizations have trouble figuring out how much they are spending on net-positive sustainability initiatives. By comparison, successful organizations know the exact ROI from their investment in sustainability initiatives. They consider corporate sustainability initiatives as an enabler for continuous business process improvements. They know how to set objectives and use key metrics to track sustainability initiatives and their performance. Successful organizations know how to convey expected outcomes to internal and external stakeholders and can demonstrate the impact of their sustainability initiatives on the progress of their overall business strategy. They have developed a sustainability management and reporting framework!
2. Identify your strategic objectives and perform a sustainability maturity assessment
Work with other stakeholders in your organization to identify what sustainability initiatives have been executed in the past 24 months, are currently being executed and are planned to be executed in the next 36 months. Facilitate this process by engaging the appropriate group of stakeholders and then review each sustainability initiative against your organization’s strategic goals. By undertaking an assessment of these sustainability initiatives and mapping them based on their maturity, you can effectively evaluate their performance and review their past, present and future impact on corporate sustainability. The outcomes will provide a roadmap for the coming months and help address the execution and ROI of the corporate sustainability initiatives more accurately.
3. Create an ROI model that everyone can understand and report
By undertaking a sustainability maturity assessment, it is possible to identify the top-performing and the under-performing sustainability initiatives. By analyzing as many details as possible, build a model that shows both the financial and non-financial impact of the identified initiatives. You are now able to identify those sustainability initiatives that will be high performers and those that should no longer be funded. This type of analysis, coupled with a clear understanding of your corporate sustainability strategy, can be used to demonstrate the value of future sustainability initiatives.
4. Conduct sustainability initiative feedback analysis
Most sustainability initiatives are initiated without a thorough analysis of their outcomes. Many of them are funded for many years, with very little due diligence on their outcomes. Every sustainability initiative should always include a feedback loop in the processes that it undertakes. It could start, simply, by periodically assessing the performance and outcomes of the sustainability initiatives. If this is not possible then the initiative itself needs to be reviewed and outcomes clearly stated before it is allowed to continue. The feedback loop should reach as many affected stakeholders as possible. Once identified, the initiatives with the strongest feedback loop will most likely be identified as the high performers.
5. Become an expert in sustainability amongst your industry peers
Do you know what sustainability initiatives your industry peers are undertaking? Have you identified similar initiatives? By reviewing the trends in your industry, and in other industries, you are able to identify those sustainability strategies that will best fit your organization’s needs. By better understating your sustainability initiatives, employing the sustainability maturity assessment process and by analyzing the feedback from your stakeholders, you can refine and optimize your organization’s sustainability initiatives and become a leader and expert in corporate sustainability amongst your industry peers.
6. Define your organization’s sustainability brand
When you create a compelling corporate sustainability reputation, your brand attracts internal and external thought leaders and game changers. They bring with them sustainability practices that further embed a culture of sustainability within your organization. Building and maintaining this compelling brand takes effort, but it is essential, especially when the economy experiences a downward cycle. Stakeholders (internal and external) will perceive the organization as one that is better positioned to handle the peaks and troughs in the economy. The ability to leverage a sustainable brand will focus the trust of clients, vendors, insurers, bankers and others in the organization and lead to overall positive corporate health.
7. Be prepared for tough questions
As sustainability becomes an issue of significance for multitudes of stakeholders, the demand for sustainability related information will only increase. The quality of the risk evaluation undertaken by stakeholders will only be as good as the data that the organization provides about its sustainability strategies and initiatives. Any failure of the organization to value the investment in its sustainability initiatives will be severely punished if the data does not support the corporate sustainability claims. Therefore, the portfolio of sustainability initiatives should be thoroughly validated and the ROI qualified before they are shared with any stakeholders. Your competitors, suitors and others will undertake a SWOT analysis on your sustainability claims, so you need to have total confidence in your data. Knowing how to respond to stakeholder demands can influence and bolster your corporate sustainability brand. Data that supports KPI performance and evaluation is the goal that all organizations should continually aspire too.
8. Make sure to create the right mix of stakeholders when executing and communicating corporate sustainability
Corporate sustainability is often about balancing the business as usual activities with evolving risks and better understanding of these risks that have not been addressed effectively in the past. It is imperative to identify the group of stakeholders that will provide the appropriate knowledge and expertise when identifying and executing sustainability initiatives. It is not necessary to invite external consultants to identify sustainability initiatives as they do not understand the business as well as an employee or client of the organization. External consultants can be engaged when execution and implementation of the initiatives is required. Short term initiatives that require highly transactional solutions usually benefit from high visibility, high impact execution and may require external consultants with the appropriate execution expertise. Longer term initiatives typically require a different kind of intellectual capital that comes from employees who have experience and knowledge from both a technical as well as a business perspective. Managing sustainability initiatives is an important aspect of any corporate sustainability strategy.
9. Streamline and simplify your sustainability initiatives and management processes
Experience has shown that many sustainability initiatives “flame-out” after a short period. The main reason for this is that the selected initiatives have very little association with the overall corporate strategy and have been selected as an after-thought. If senior management does not show interest, then why would the rank and file employee do so! The initiatives that succeed have a defined scope, impact and measureable outcomes. The identification and execution of the wrong sustainability initiative will have a negative impact on your brand. It is important to measure the success of a sustainability strategy by the process in which these initiatives are selected, funded and referenced by senior management. Every sustainability initiative should have a defined start and end that is communicated to all stakeholders along with the outcomes measured against the KPIs that are identified at the start of the initiative.
10. Consolidate your vendors and establish partnerships based on mutual sustainability initiatives and values
Vertical integration leads to process improvement and greater sustainability. Initiatives that can take advantage of process improvements that enable your suppliers and vendors will often bring better, cost- effective and sustainable solutions. It is not about procurement departments reducing the number of suppliers or external consultants. It is about empowering them to provide a better level of service to the benefit of all. Of course, by consolidating your suppliers there could be a short to medium-term cost benefit but this comes at the potential risk of long-term dependency on a smaller group of suppliers who may not be sustainable. It is prudent to review and rebalance internal and external business processes to maximize the benefits of evolving economies. To undertake these processes, every organization requires a sustainability management and reporting strategy that has processes that are independent and are able to support effective communication of sustainability to all stakeholders.
HRCarbon developed the Sustainability Management and Reporting Framework. These best practices enable sustainability professionals in any industry to execute on the “10 things you can do to improve your corporate sustainability”.
HRCarbon’s Sustainability Management and Reporting Framework is a best practices approach that enables sustainability initiative management and optimization of multiple stakeholder reporting.
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