The question is not anymore why to act but how!
The 4 key steps to create your sustainability roadmap are here to help you take action and implement sustainable business practices. These include best practices from our work at teams4purpose.
✅ Part 1 – Identify your status quo
✅ Part 2 – Identify where to start
✅ Part 3 – Involve your colleagues
✅ Part 4 – Take action and keep moving
Part 1: Identify your status quo
For any strategy or roadmap, it’s crucial to know where you come from or where you are standing to know where you are going. It’s the same for Sustainability.
1️. Status quo
What we do with corporate clients is to have a look at the status quo regarding Sustainability:
- What is your company doing?
- What are other companies doing, such as competitors?
In this phase, we use internationally recognised frameworks such as:
- ISO 26000:2010 Standard
- Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
- UN SustainableDevelopment Goals (SDGs)
There might be specific Sustainability frameworks existing for your industry. This was the case for one of our clients, so we integrated that framework into the status quo analysis
The benefits of using frameworks are manifold such as simplicity: having a pre-set list of issues to screen can simplify your life. Furthermore, referring to an internationally recognized framework also adds credibility.
What’s important is to have a look at the Sustainability issues along your value chain.
This is where you will see what impacts (direct and indirect) your organization has and on who (internal and external stakeholders, including the planet): identify positive impacts (to be increased) and negative impacts (to be mitigated or eliminated).
Here’s an example from the SDG Compass, a tool developed by the UN Global Compact, GRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (wbcsd):
2. Where to go?
Once you know where you are standing, you can focus on where to go: What should your company be doing when it comes to Sustainability?
We suggest taking the same framework used for the status quo analysis and add the desired situation.
This can be enriched by engaging stakeholders into the process (more on this in parts 2 and 3).
The process described above can take a few weeks, depending on who you involve and how in depth you go.
Part 2: identify where to start.
Once you know where you are standing, you can focus on “where to go”: What should the company be doing when it comes to Sustainability?
When it comes to sustainable business practices, the options are manifold and it can be hard to know where to start and focus on first.
Here’s how to do it.
You need to identify what is “material” for your business, meaning: What are the impacts you are having on people and planet and what impacts you can expect on your business
What’s most important?
For example, material Sustainability issues for a company in the food industry would be its impacts on agricultural practices upstream in the supply chain as well as health and safety of consumers.
These 2 steps will help you identify where to focus your Sustainability efforts. 👇
1️. Use renown frameworks or labels to identify material Sustainability issues.
We suggest taking the same framework used for the status quo analysis and add the desired situation. You can also use sector-specific frameworks and standards.
For example the SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) provides material Sustainability issues for many sectors.
Another example is the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment & Footwear Sector, that establishes a common understanding of due diligence in the sector to help companies meet the due diligence expectations laid out in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
2. Involve stakeholders to help you prioritize
Next, involve internal and external stakeholders (employees, clients, suppliers, users…) and ask what they expect from you.
This can happen through conversations, interviews, surveys… It’s important to have their input to engage them in your Sustainability efforts and to be sure you haven’t overlooked an important sustainability issue.
This step will also help you prioritize: the sustainability issues important for your business AND your stakeholders should be the ones to focus on first.
Very often companies then do what’s called a “materiality matrix”, where material Sustainability issues are mapped based on what’s important / impacting businesses and stakeholders: on the top quartile is where top priorities are mapped and what the company should be focusing on.
Here’s an example from the insurance company AXA.
Axa’s top material issues are risks related to financial instability and climate change: climate change favours natural disasters (as we are witnessing at the moment in Germany, Belgium and China), which threaten society and companies and enhance financial instability. Since insurance companies provide cover for natural disaster damages and their increasing financial consequences, the sector’s profitability and business models are at risk.
Identifying where to start can take a few weeks or a couple of months, depending on who you involve and how in depth you go.
We regularly do the above exercise with our clients. Involving stakeholders not only engages and motivates them to be part of your Sustainability journey, it also gives credibility to your focus areas for sustainability.
Part 3: Involve your colleagues
Once you have identified your status quo and where to start, you need to make sure your colleagues (and external stakeholders) are engaged in the process.
Implementing Sustainability is a change management process and for it to be successful, the overall objective is that everyone in the organization can embrace it (this takes time, of course).
Here are 4 elements that are key for success to engage your organization.
- Leadership support. You need strong support from your leadership about the fact that Sustainability is a priority for all. Otherwise ‘business as usual’ and the daily urgencies, will have the upper hand and you won’t get very far.
- Awareness. Raise awareness about why it’s important to act. Make sure your colleagues have a strong personal ‘why’ to take action on Sustainability issues. It won’t always be the same ‘why’ for everyone, but as long as everyone has a strong, compelling one, they will persevere and support the change needed.
- Knowledge. Make sure you get a common language and understanding of Sustainability and CSR as well as some more specific training on Sustainability topics. Case studies from other businesses can be inspirational and trigger action.
- Action. Develop a common roadmap for action and personal action plan for everyone involved so they know how to take action and what to do.
The earlier you involve key stakeholders, the higher the chances of success: when people feel they own the process, they will be most engaged to follow through.
One of our clients is a great example of that: early on in the process of creating the Sustainability strategy, the leadership was very supportive of creating a bottom-up approach.
After identifying the status quo (step 1) and where to focus on (step 2), working groups of employees were formed to work on action plans and objectives.
This process enhanced awareness, knowledge and engagement and willingness for action of teams, to continue being part of the implementation process of sustainability within the company.
The ‘collateral’ benefit of engaging your teams in your company’s Sustainability roadmap, is that it adds purpose to their jobs and enhances engagement, wellbeing and performance.
Part 4: Get started and keep moving!
When it comes to Business Sustainability there are many best practices but there’s no ‘easy button’: every organization has to find its own way to get started and set its priorities.
The best way to get started: take action!
This can be scary, because it’s about diving into the unknown and mistakes will inevitably be part of the process.
Here are some best practices to help overcome the fear of failure and inertia linked to it:
- Pilots are a great way to learn (and fail) fast and adapt. Once this is done, scale up!
- It’s important to engage into a constant learning and improvement process: Revise results, adjust as needed. Be aware of the fact that the level of awareness about Sustainability will increase over time within your organization, which will help this continuous improvement process.
- Measuring your Sustainability performance is key to make sure you know where you are heading, if results are in line with your expectations, adapt if needed – and to celebrate successes!
- Create a culture open for change, to take risks and be bold as a corporate citizen. Keep engaging as many stakeholders as possible (see step 3) to keep their support and make Sustainability a collaborative success.
Let us know if you have questions regarding the Sustainability roadmap: firstname.lastname@example.org