Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important business objective, and growing numbers of companies are setting sustainability goals.
Making commitments is one thing, but actually keeping them has proven to be a challenge. A recent survey found that a disappointing two percent of companies meet or achieve their corporate sustainability goals, as compared to 12 percent for other company objectives.
What can businesses learn from those who have succeeded in achieving their sustainability goals? Once you’ve assessed your environmental impacts and defined your goals, follow these tips.
1. Designate Leaders
Clearly defining who is responsible for which aspects of your sustainability programs helps ensure they get done in an organized manner. While you want all of your employees to be involved in your initiatives, research indicates that support from senior leadership is a crucial factor in reaching sustainability goals. By moving the company toward sustainability, senior leaders can start the process that propels the business toward a more eco-friendly future.
2. Emphasize the Business Benefits
Highlighting the benefits a successful sustainability program can bring to a company can help it to take off. These benefits include reduced energy costs and an improved reputation among consumers, which can lead to increased sales. Focusing on the business case for sustainability may be especially important for organizations with leadership that’s hesitant about setting sustainability goals.
3. Incorporate Incentives
Incentives are an effective way to get more employees involved in your company’s sustainability program. You could offer rewards to employees who cut down on the amount the print and go digital, for instance.
It can also be helpful to hold meetings with employees with employees to hear their thoughts on how to make the company more environmentally friendly. You could also set up a suggestions box, perhaps a digital one, to collect ideas.
4. Integrate Sustainability Into Your Operations
For your sustainability program to be successful, it needs to become a part of the way your company operates — not just a separate goal. Amending business processes to account for sustainability goals makes it much easier to achieve them.
For instance, you could make sustainability a key consideration in your process of choosing suppliers. Also, devise an easy way to track resource use, such as the amount of energy your company uses. Even in just changing up office décor and including more plants can have a dramatic impact on the health of your workplace and lower stress levels of your employees.
Renewable energy installation helps reduce overhead energy costs. Many businesses, like Amazon and Target, are investing heavily in wind power. However, solar panels are also a cost-effective energy source for businesses.
5. Build In Accountability
Without accountability, a company is much less likely to achieve its goals. Some business leaders may hesitate to make their objectives public for fear that they won’t meet them. Although making a public commitment is a risk, the benefits make it worth it. Studies show that being accountable to someone makes you much more likely to achieve your objectives.
You might even want to share your progress toward your goals as you go. Doing so has also been shown to increase your chances of achieving what you set out to do.
6. Seek Certifications
Another way to build accountability into your sustainability program, as well as obtain other benefits, is by seeking sustainability-related certifications. Certifications are available in sustainability reporting, environmental management systems, energy management systems and other areas.
These accreditations provide you with well-defined processes for achieving your objectives. You also need to stay on course to maintain them, which creates accountability. Additionally, certifications can improve your company's reputation with customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
7. Aim For Constant Improvement
Another helpful tip is to continuously look for ways to improve your sustainability program, rather than take a "set it and forget it" approach. You likely won't get everything perfect your first time. This approach also enables you to start small and gradually expand your sustainability goals.
Regularly improving your sustainability programs will also help keep people interested in them and show customers that you’re serious about your commitment to the environment.
For modern businesses, setting sustainability goals is crucial. It can improve your company’s reputation, reduce its costs and help you stay ahead of the competition. It also, of course, helps to conserve the natural resources and climate that every business — and person — depends on.
Image credit: The Value Web; courtesy Flickr