The Playbook for Becoming a Sustainable Business
If your company is working toward improving its sustainability performance, you need a strategy, plan and roadmap. There are ten steps we’ve defined at Green Business Bureau to gear your company’s purpose, culture, focus and actions towards sustainability. All 10 steps below were summarized in the first article, The Executive Guide for Becoming a Sustainable Business:
Step 1: Define your vision, mission and values
Step 2: Create a sustainability committee or green team
Step 3: Benchmark and assess your current sustainability performance
Step 4: Engage your employees
Step 5: Plan, set goals and prioritize based on over 400 GBB initiatives
Step 6: Implement the plan, establish and communicate new policies and practices
Step 7: Leverage the GBB Scorecard to track progress and measure results
Step 8: Analyze your results and compare to goals and benchmarks
Step 9: Celebrate and communicate your accomplishments
Step 10: If you’re ready, get Certified or continue making improvements
Today’s article will cover Step 8, how to reflect on your progress, analyze results and adjust course.
Step 8: Sustainability Analysis – Evaluating Results
The 8th step in your green business journey is to analyze results. This can be done quarterly or annually depending on the size of your program and the number of initiatives you are tracking.
One common approach to reviewing your program is a SWOT analysis where you capture your results and observations in four buckets:
As described in Step 7 of the Executive Guide, your scorecard becomes the foundation for your program and heavily is involved in the sustainability analysis phase. Reviewing your scorecard will show you where you’ve made great progress. Consider how you’ve done in each functional area:
- Business Practices
- Office Space
- Community Involvement
Also, organize your results based on these categories:
- Supply Chain
Capture your successes in the STRENGTHS section of a SWOT document. This can be done via a spreadsheet, Word document or simple PowerPoint slide to present to your team and stakeholders. No matter which method you prefer to share your results, this is a critical step as it informs key players on current progress and creates the opportunity to discuss these results.
Reviewing your scorecard will also show you where you’ve fallen short and identify areas of improvement. As mentioned above, organize your sustainability analysis by functional area and sustainability categories. Look for areas where initiatives were not completed as planned. Try to understand why and document the reasons. Here are some possible obstacles that may hinder progress and goal attainment:
- Budget was not large enough and ran out of funding
- Not enough time allocated to the initiatives
- Lack of experience or expertise
- Lack of commitment and follow through on projects
- Under staffing
- Poor decisions in selecting solutions
- Wrong partners and vendors
- Lack of structure and software to manage the program
- Lost interest from executives
There are many potential reasons for your program weaknesses. Be realistic so you can take corrective action. Capture all the challenges, large and small.
Thoroughly analyzing your strengths and weaknesses will help you identify a variety of opportunities for growth and improvement. An opportunity can be as simple as creating the space and time to address weaknesses and discuss as a team. Other opportunities for growth and improvement include:
- Increasing the budget
- Educating staff on initiatives
- Enhancing employee engagement
- Hiring a consultant
- Purchasing the right software
- Reassigning owners to key tasks
- Connecting with like-minded people and organizations
The sustainability analysis phase should also bring clarity to your sustainability agenda and reveal new initiatives for your organization to pursue. Part of the reason you want to document opportunities is to help you prioritize what you want to do next and this may include adjusting the planned initiatives or assigning new ones.
There are several types of threats to your program that may have emerged since the plan was last updated and your team’s last checkpoint.
Internal threat examples:
- Your company faces financial strain, possibly decreasing the sustainability budget.
- Key team members may be leaving.
- There’s skepticism among team members and not everyone is on the same page.
- Your company has introduced new products, processes or policies that are not completely sustainable.
- An environmental incident has killed program momentum or caused a stir with PR.
External threat examples:
- Your company faces competition with a more sustainable product or service.
- New regulations and compliance standards
- Consumer backlash
- Economic or political turmoil
Update Your Program Plan
Your SWOT analysis will uncover issues and opportunities that should be addressed in your plan. A sustainability plan is a living, breathing document that needs to be updated at least quarterly. There are many reasons that drive the need to adapt, adjust and change course: corporate priorities change, people implementing initiatives leave the company, or initiatives may be more difficult than initially thought. Simply, review what worked and what didn’t and make the necessary changes.
Set Short-Term Goals For Next Quarter
As we’ve discussed, there are short-term initiatives and long-term initiatives. There are initiatives that are very easy and inexpensive to implement and then there are those that are complex and involve major capital expenditures. Your sustainability plan should have a mix of both major and minor initiatives organized as quarterly, annual and multi-year goals. Be sure to update your quarterly goals regularly.
Diversify Your Portfolio of Green Investments
At Green Business Bureau, we’ve created a library of hundreds of initiatives, some as simple as replacing plasticware with reusable silverware or installing timers and motion detectors on lights. More ambitious and complicated initiatives include transitioning to solar power or migrating your fleet to electric vehicles. We’ve intentionally estimated level of effort, cost and environmental impact to enable companies and their green teams to select the right mix of initiatives that best suit their unique budget and plans. By creating a diversified portfolio of initiatives, companies will find that they can succeed in sustainability in many different ways and, as a result, tap into all sorts of benefits and opportunities.
Drive More Employee Engagement
Part of your sustainability analysis should uncover gaps in process and people. In some cases, the initial spike in interest may dull and teams will need to be re-energized. Sharing results and potential opportunities is a great way to re-engage employees. Updating the plan and assigning new owners and deadlines is another tactic. Without employees fully committed and driving the cause, your program will struggle.
Introduce More Frequent Checkpoints
If engagement is way down or initiatives are not being fulfilled, then it may be time to increase the frequency of meetings and checkpoints. If you’re meeting quarterly, consider moving to monthly checkpoints. If meeting monthly, think about bi-monthly. If everything is going amazingly well, then stay the course – but rest assured that some companies are making the time to meet weekly and that high level of engagement can fuel even greater momentum.
Seek Outside Assistance
As a last resort, if your program is stalling or seems destined to fail, look for outside help. This could be a sustainability consultant from a reputable firm. This could be a guest speaker from your network of peers and associates. This can be a vendor who provides software to bring structure and discipline to your program. Although the Green Business Bureau is best known for its certification, our sustainability software and framework have become the foundation for many large sustainability programs. Check out this video of our certification software to see if it’s an online system that could help your program. We would love to help you realize your vision and goals along your green business journey!