Understand the breadth
Sustainability strategy is about solutions; it allows innovative strategists to consider how they can improve their service and creates a new focal point for guiding business development. A sustainable strategy for business aims to meet the needs of stakeholders today, without compromising the ability to satisfy future needs. It looks beyond corporate social responsibility and the societal activities that an organisation contributes to the community, concentrating also on how the environment impacts on an organisation and how the organisation impacts on the environment.
Making a start
It is becoming increasingly important for businesses and organisations to disclose their approach and demonstrate performance with regard to the integration of sustainable development in their business strategy. To start a plan, it is essential to first identify the minimum standards your strategy will aim to meet. These may need to be in line with national policy relating to your business and/or may be related to organisational principles.
Flexible and meaningful
Sustainability strategies help to ensure businesses and organisations are financially stable in the long-term, are complying with the law and preparing for potential future requirements, are maintaining a good reputation, are resilient to economic, social and environmental change, are making better use of finite resources and are providing a better service for customers, clients and the community. A strategy needs to be meaningful and tell the whole story of the functions of the business today and in the future.
Specific to ‘what you do’
A sustainability strategy needs to be created specifically for the organisation and should be considered as a positive, enlightening method of energising an organisation to be astute and innovative. To ensure sustainable development is not treated as an added extra but becomes embedded into the way things are done, it is important to integrate existing ambitions and challenges into a sustainability strategy.
A strategy needs to have the ultimate aim of making sustainability part of the decision process when planning and forecasting business delivery, when designing and building construction projects, when considering how employees work, when leading on strategic direction and when continuing with day-to-day actions. The overriding aim should always be to make sustainability everyone’s responsibility.
Consider both mitigation and adaptation
A complete strategy will include mechanisms to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions and acting more sustainably. This alone will not protect organisations from the effects of climate change such as longer and more frequent heat waves, increased flooding, harsher cold snaps and the impact these events will have on business continuity. Considering an organisation’s ability to adapt to future scenarios is important to a sustainability strategy. A sustainability strategy should address the organisation’s ability to adapt and change through forward planning; increasing resilience, managing risks, protecting oneself, customers, clients and the community and also, importantly, taking advantage of any potential opportunities that arise. Global changes in climate are already happening and will, without doubt, continue. This results in the need to ensure buildings and infrastructure are designed for future climates, that business functions are prepared to operate in changing conditions, that compliance with changing government regulations is assured and that the financial risks from possible increases in taxes and prices are accounted for.
Shared ownership and good management
A strategy is likely to be owned and performed by various people or departments across an organisation but it needs programme management by a sustainable business strategist. Organisations need to ensure that expertise within an organisation is embraced to bring together innovation and invention. Getting the right people involved from the start is very important and the following areas should be considered:
- Procurement and waste
- Buildings, design and biodiversity
- Health and wellbeing (workforce, customers, clients and community)
- Partnerships and networks
- Engagement, communication and information sharing
- Finance and reporting (including quantitative and qualitative measurements)
Make it receptive to development and improvement
Strategies need to be able to evolve and writing a strategy should not be a limiting factor to develop new ideas. It is important to update and add to sustainability strategies by adding individual business cases which can be developed over time. This can be encouraged by making the strategy visible and accessible as an online/electronic program, rather than a printed document .
Follow your instincts, be bold
A successful sustainability strategy is not just about metrics, targets and financial savings. To be successful at becoming a sustainable organisation, trusting a ‘gut feeling’ of what is right will have a range of far-reaching benefits. These benefits are sometimes difficult to measure; however they should not be dismissed based on that fact, but embraced as ‘the right thing to do’. It is important to understand the principles and sometimes be willing to back intuition, investing without a specific business case.