Today sustainability is not just a catchphrase. For many businesses, colleges and universities, and communities, sustainability is an integral part of their strategic plans and ongoing operations. By aligning sustainable strategies and initiatives with their core values and mission, these organizations are able to:
- create competitive advantages, revenue growth, and long-term value
- improve operational performance, increase efficiencies, and reduce costs
- reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts
- manage regulatory and market risks
- enhance the organization's reputation
The purpose of a sustainability assessment is to help your organization identify risks, challenges, and opportunities. This involves an analysis of existing initiatives, resource allocations and staff capabilities in the context of industry-specific best practices. It also includes the development of reliable baselines of energy and water consumption, waste generation, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and related costs. From there, your organization can begin to consider existing and alternative sources of energy, water, and other critical resources. You can identify and apply appropriate benchmarks. And you can develop measurement and verification plans to evaluate progress over time.
Sustainable strategic planning is a matter of making sustainable choices that will promote and enhance your organization's core values, mission, and aspirations. This requires looking at best practices within your specific industry, proven and emerging technologies, and government policies and incentives. To be effective, your organization must incorporate this knowledge and information into its strategic plan, establish realistic targets and timetables, and calculate the initial and ongoing resources and staffing that will be required to meet those targets and timetables.
Strategic plans, energy audits, and other forms of assessments and goal setting are too often wasted because of inadequate implementation or execution. Developing an effective strategic plan will help in this regard, but the targets and timetables established in the plan must be supported with an action agenda that specifies who will be responsible for executing the plan and how (both in terms of staffing and funding) they will meet expectations. Outside facilitators can often assist an organization at the implementation stage by providing both expertise and objective, focused attention on achieving results.
Performance Evaluation and Reporting
You cannot manage what you do not measure. Accordingly, your organization should have well-designed performance evaluation tools to measure and verify progress towards targets and objectives. The tools can include report cards and dashboards summarizing progress and gaps to promote accountability and continuous improvement. These tools also ensure effective governance and oversight. Your organization should also consider the recognition and competitive advantages that may result from submitting data to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Walmart Sustainability Survey, and industry specific indexes and reports. After all, if you've already done the work and achieved the results, you might as well get credit for it.
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