How to kickstart your sustainable transformation?
Engaging sustainable practices in your company is engaging it for the future.
There are countless reports, analysis, websites and theories out there.
We know how overwhelming it is, how strong is the temptation to go back to “business as usual” and leave it to others.
You landed here because you wanted or needed to make a change.
Good news: it is easier than it may look at first sight, if you take it one step at a time.
Based on our combined experience, we came up with guidelines to help you along the journey.
Why should you start?
Embracing sustainability brings a number of benefits:
- Attracts talents and customers: 62% of millennials want to work for a company with a positive impact on the world. A study finds out that ~80% of the respondents have supported “just” companies (through purchase, work, investment, etc).
- Generates financial returns on investment: companies with highest ESG ratings outperform others by up to 40%.
- Saves money. Sustainability can lead to massive cost savings. Walmart expected to save $1 billion in 2015 compared to 2005, by improving the efficiency of its fleet.
- Fosters innovation along the supply chain by thinking differently and introducing new constraints.
- Develops your capacity to mitigate, adapt and limit the risks to come. Mitigating the reputation risk is the biggest driver (61% in BSR survey) for sustainability practices.
Read more on how sustainability benefits the bottom line.
6 steps to start your transition and make it last
1. Get support from internal/ external stakeholders
a. Buy-in is critical for creating the momentum for your sustainability transformation.
- The more strategic support you will get, the easier it will be.
- Build rapport with stakeholders to identify what is the most important for them and which factors have the most impact on the business.
- Provide them with good reasons to trust you:
- Why do you want to do it?
- What does it require? (time, budget, other resources)
- What are the benefits for the company, short term and long term? (see above Why should you start?)
b. Whether you have been assigned the responsibility of Sustainable transformation, or you are carrying the initiative and need to convince your hierarchy: you don’t have to do it alone!
- Remember that most people wouldn’t mind your project, or would appreciate your effort without taking part in it, and some people will openly criticize you (worst case scenario: they fight against your idea).
- Surround yourself with the right people to drive change:
create a “Green Team” composed of colleagues who will proactively help you because they share the same values.
- As for any transversal project, it is important to bring other teams, departments or services onboard to succeed. Collaboration is key.
- Engage with decision-makers who also support your vision.
- Reach out to them, involve them, update them.
2. Assess your company’s situation in the present
a. Change happens when you fill a gap between a given situation and a new situation.
You need to know where the company stands today to be able to lead it to where it must be tomorrow.
- Start measuring: bills, equipment usage & expenses, practices…
Check out our templates to see how you can do it.
- Assess your company’s footprint, preferably for the full lifecycle of your products/ services. You can use online corporate calculators or hire consultants.
Although free tools are not 100% accurate, they will help you understand which factors play a major role.
- Understand the 3 scopes of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: for many companies, most of their GHG emissions and cost reduction opportunities lie in Scope 3 - it is however the hardest to tackle.
b. Identify your key areas of intervention: according to the Pareto Principle, “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
Find your 20% thanks to the work you did in 2.a.
c. Compare your company with your competitors:
- How are you doing in your industry?
- What are your improvement areas?
- Who are the best-in-class companies that you can get inspiration from?
3. Set realistic targets
a. Set SMARTER objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-sensitive, Evaluated, Reviewed) to define your sustainability strategy, prioritizing on your 20% factors from 2.b. To keep the teams’ morale high, build on quick wins that will lead them to a major milestone.
b. Planning can be a challenge: be aware that the sustainability journey takes time and you will encounter setbacks. Be persistent. Move forward step by step: break each goal into sprints and set 3, 6, 12 months targets. Then adjust whenever necessary.
c. Browse the solutions you can implement and find the right suppliers.
d. Be careful about good-at-first-sight ideas that eventually turn to be poor ideas:
e.g. organising an internal event to raise awareness about food waste but providing pointless goodies. The waste and footprint generated by the goodies may cancel out the effort.
4. Agree on a Sustainability Policy
a. A Sustainability Policy is your company’s statement about its commitment to sustainability: it describes your strategy and goals, and the actions you intend to take to accomplish them.
Your Sustainability Policy should be a comprehensible document, communicated to all employees, stakeholders, customers and partners (including building management, suppliers…) and inspire change over time.
It also fosters Trust through Transparency & Commitment, resulting in customers and employees loyalty as well as business opportunities.
Note: Sustainable Procurement has a major impact on your global policy, learn more about How to write a Sustainable Procurement Policy.
b. Identify an appropriate set of sustainability KPIs that can be an integral part of the company’s strategy (fully part of every team’s KPIs and valuable for employee evaluation).
5. Monitor your progress
a. Monitor your achievements:
- In terms of positive impact, cost savings, time savings, employees’ engagement, awareness, roadblocks, etc.
- Have a clear view of what worked and what didn’t, assess the reasons why. It is a test-learn-adjust process.
b. It is essential to share meaningful reports to update all involved stakeholders on a regular basis, and welcome any insight on your actions.
Take the opportunity to make sure your goals are still aligned with the company’s strategy.
6. Promote your efforts
- Use internal newsletter, monthly meetings, town halls, events, etc. to promote your work. Your achievements will improve the company’s image towards the employees and create more loyalty. You will raise more awareness and gain engagement from your colleagues.
- You may recruit more volunteers in your Green team.
- As mentioned previously, a more sustainable company sends a better image and attracts more talents and partners - including investors.
- It is an opportunity to influence your peers and suppliers.
- Spread your best practices to encourage others to follow your path, become a leader and a model. Check out our Dare & Share section to read some examples.
- Beware of greenwashing: trust is very hard to gain back when it is lost. Don’t embellish or lie about your sustainability journey.
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