Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

Building A Sustainable Company — Part II

By Vijay Kanal on June 21, 2010

I began my last blog with a promise to explore some of the first steps companies new to sustainability should consider. I ended it by promising to explore some of the important frameworks companies should include in a more rigorous approach to sustainability. This is more than just a theoretical approach; we engage in these frameworks with our clients to help them achieve their sustainability goals.

Opportunity Assessment
Where exactly is your company on the sustainability curve? That’s a big question, and we work to break it down by functional department within the company. The objective is to prioritize the strategies and actions that will have the greatest impact today, tomorrow and long term. How much it will cost is an important assessment, both from an investment perspective, as well as a holistic (i.e. not just financial) approach to ROI.

Strategies and Goals
Once the opportunity assessment is complete, it is time to set strategies and goals for the organization. These goals should be specific, understandable, and measurable. Aligning sustainability strategies with business objectives isn’t a ‘nice to have’; it’s essential in establishing goals that will challenge the organization to succeed and become self-perpetuating.

Determining where the resources lie that will pay for initial sustainability initiatives can be challenging, but a positive ROI makes that hurdle easier to overcome. Also, management must look beyond just the short-term direct financial benefit, and factor in the benefit to the brand, employee recruitment and retention, and risk mitigation.

Product Management and Marketing
Savvy companies are profiting from the green movement by offering “no-tradeoff” (P&G) products that appeal to environmentally focused customers. Customer research often uncovers the revenue potential from such opportunities. How can you turn an uncompromising approach to sustainability into a competitive advantage?

Think about where your operations might make a difference. We often encounter rich opportunities in reducing material usage, optimizing logistics, and maximizing recycling and waste reduction. The supply chain is also  - working with suppliers that follow sustainable practices, developing metrics and performance goals with them, and setting up a regular communication process.

Governance Model
As Triple Pundit points out, corporate governance – as it relates to sustainability, anyway – must be more “collaborative and participatory.” There are many models and possibilities for governance models; finding the right one depends upon a number of factors, including the size of your organization, the prevailing culture, passion for sustainability among your executives and employees, and resource availability. But strong leadership and champions among the executive ranks is an essential ingredient,

Metrics and Dashboards
You need to be able to chart your progress, so you can prove it to internal and external stakeholders, as well as make any mid-course corrections. The right measures and metrics will help you create effective balance scorecards that demonstrate the efficacy of your sustainability initiatives.

Employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders demand regular and transparent communication from companies about their sustainability efforts. Pertinent deliverables include (online) CSR reports, press releases, social media, and other forms of communication, for both content and placement.

Understanding stakeholders
NGOs in particular can be partners in helping your company become sustainable. Selecting the right NGO as a partner leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. NGOs can provide valuable feedback and add significant credibility to your sustainability efforts and enhance your brand equity.

These are just some of the basic frameworks, For a more detailed discussion, feel free to contact me in the reply box below.