How to Develop a Corporate Sustainability Program

Making Sustainability A Priority

Lisa Mckelvey

Lisa Mckelvey

by Lisa Mckelvey

Table of contents

How to Develop a Corporate Sustainability Program

Businesses are finally beginning to care more about the impact that they’re having on the world. Consumers, CEO’s, investors and employees are learning that sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand. It’s music to investor ears who now, more than ever before, place Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) metrics more prominently within their analysis process. Research by Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates over $20 trillion of asset growth in ESG funds over the next two decades. As the buzz phrase of the day dictates… you can do well and do good!

  1. And so to the first step in creating a successful corporate sustainability program… garner interest. If little exists, cultivate it. Companies have a lot going on. Sustainability isn’t always at the top of the list of priorities but it should be, so let’s make it so! As a first step, gauge engagement levels from shareholders, management, employees at every different level. If prospective engagement is low, then invest in educating. We’re all working towards a common objective. Sometimes that goal just needs to be highlighted. Create a “green team” of critical and creative thinkers, driven, motivated and enthusiastic colleagues who will set the common goal, champion it and achieve it.

  2. Assess your record and define your mission. As with any goal you set, you need to first establish a starting point. Establishing your carbon footprint baseline allows you to set targets. Consider things like heating bills, travel emissions, how many toilet paper rolls are used every month… The more detailed this baseline document is, the more accurate the reading. Once you’ve established your baseline, assess realistically where you want to get to. This will form the basis for your sustainability statement.
    RECORD: Once you’ve established your starting point, it’s important to record improvement. A sustainability statement should be revisited constantly to both monitor progress in certain areas and of course a lack thereof. GreenFeet is one such tool for easily recording, managing and analysing your corporate emissions footprint on an ongoing basis. It’s designed to be easy to use so you can painlessly and quickly understand your footprint and easily track and improve it over time.

  3. Creating your sustainability plan. In simple terms, a sustainability statement is a document that details your company’s environmental strategy as well as the motivation and incentives behind the objectives. It should be concise, realistic and include specific goals. Assign certain people within the company responsibility for each goal. Establish regular check ins. The bottom line here is that reducing your carbon footprint is basic common environmental saving sense. Whether it’s on an individual basis or as part of a wider group, it’s a matter of setting goals and achieving them by implementing changes to everyday tasks or activities in an environmentally aware way. BE SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

  4. . Revisit CONSTANTLY. It’s one thing to produce a sustainability plan, it’s another to achieve it. Regular check-ins are vital to its success. Engage all stakeholders to ensure that the plan remains at the forefront of the company’s mission. Keep tabs on the small goals as well as the overall objective. It’s just as important to check that the lights in your company’s buildings are switched off at night as it is to cut down on air travel. Every effort counts. 


So there you have it… four simple steps to creating a company wide sustainability plan. An initial in-house assessment should bring most issues to light. Build on this with the hope that this sustainability plan will become woven into the very fabric of the organization. The ultimate goal is to become carbon neutral with or without offsets (and, in fact, ideally carbon negative!!). Start small and build. Record, revisit and review. Rewind if necessary. Create a plan that all stakeholders are keen to accept and achieve. As we mentioned in our previous blog post there are many more advantages to being a sustainable company than just being sustainable.

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