GREEN: The Key Elements to Prepare for a Sustainability Plan
Column by K.J. McCorry
Before getting started on developing a sustainability plan, an organization must first prepare. Making sure you have the necessary data and support is essential before developing a sustainability plan. The following are some of the areas to consider before beginning the sustainability planning process.
Procure management support: It can't be stressed enough. Sustainability initiatives won't happen unless you have top management support within an organization. It is important to not only educate management but also to increase their involvement in the sustainability program. Make sure that the CEO and all top executives are on board to support a sustainability plan. This will require time from their staff along with consistent follow-through on sustainability initiatives. Ideally, management should be involved in the entire planning process, but at the very least should provide suggestions and input into the sustainability vision and objectives.
Conduct an assessment: It is important to get an overview of what green initiatives a company has already started along with the areas that have the potential for improvement with regards to environmental and social responsibility. Reach out to each department or division of a company and hold information interviews. Although more information can be gathered through in-person meetings, an organization can also conduct an assessment via an online survey. Develop a series of questions that ask specifically what each area is doing to reduce resource use and minimize environmental impact. Some organizations also like to assess the social side of business and determine how employees are engaged in the community and the nonprofit organizations they support. Eco-officiency has developed an assessment tool with a series of questions for each major department of an organization that can be downloaded at www.eco-officiency.com under the resources tab.
Identify a "green" team: Because sustainability permeates in all areas of an organization, it is helpful to have a team assigned to assist in the planning process. Identify key employees that have interest and influence in an organization that will develop and coordinate the sustainability plan. Ideally, this team should include a representative from each primary area or division of the company. Make sure to have on the team at least one company executive along with a few individuals who are already advocates of the company becoming more green. Once the sustainability plan has been developed, this team should meet on a regular basis to support the organizations green initiatives and address challenges as they arise.
Obtain the current strategy plan: It is important that sustainability plans are incorporated and aligned with the organization's strategic plan. By integrating the sustainability plan with the company's strategy, the initiatives become aligned and integrated into initiatives already in motion. For example, if an organization wants to reduce operational costs by 5 percent, then this is a perfect tie-in with reducing energy use. If a company wants to improve its employee retention, then consider implementing telework or work-at-home programs as a sustainability initiative. If an organization wants to revise its packaging, then it is an excellent time to consider some sustainable alternatives.
Once the data, management support and green team have been established the organization is ready to develop a sustainability plan. Taking the time to set the stage properly will support the sustainability planning process and ultimately its implementation.