Sustainability planning: Step-by-step guide for businesses
Entrepreneurs listen! It’s March 2023 already and we know that most of you are eager to progress your business into new untapped dimensions. “This will be the most successful year yet for my business”. If that’s your attitude, and you wish to push your company in the right direction, keep reading. We will give you an easy-to-understand step-by-step guide to planning effectively for sustainability. Let’s make 2023 your best year yet and take action today.
1. First things first
The first step in sustainability planning is something that every successful business should do. Without it, your business will be moving around like a ship without a compass. No direction, just going with the flow. Yes, you might move forward, but just like a ship needs a compass to arrive at its destination, your business needs to identify core priorities to achieve ambitious sustainability goals.
Core priorities are the roadmap to your destination and the first step you should take.
To do so, you should align your strategy with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help you define your focus/priority areas. You cannot equally fulfil all of the SDGs at once. Doing so would hinder your ability to accomplish your goals effectively and make a tangible impact.
Our suggestion: Identify four to five SDGs where you can make the most impact.
How do I identify the right SDGs for my business?
First, ask your stakeholders what they care about the most. These could be your customers, employees, partners, suppliers, etc. Try to build a clear picture of the issues that your stakeholders deem more relevant for your business. Second, align your core values and purpose with the goals that represent the best match for you.
How does it all come together? What goals do you and your stakeholders have in common? Well these goals should be your main focus when it comes to sustainability.
The Purpose Mapping and Purpose Book are the methodologies we’ve developed and tested with multiple businesses to help companies like yours identify their key Sustainable Development Goals through stakeholder engagement and plan their sustainability activities effectively.
2. Set the right tone
Once you have successfully identified your key SDGs, the next step would be to set the right tone. After all, planning is all about moving your business from point A to point B.
Point A = Current State
Point B = Desired Outcome
In order to set the right tone and move from point A to point B you have to build the right plan. We will give you five keys to do so:
- Set deadlines: When are you planning to achieve each desired outcome?
- Divide tasks between urgent and important: During your planning, you will feel like most tasks have to get done asap. To prevent confusion, divide tasks between urgent (i.e., they’re linked to a time-sensitive deadline) and important (i.e., they have a huge impact on your business but no urgency). Tasks that are both urgent and important have priority, followed by tasks that are not urgent but important. Finally, you should focus on tasks that are urgent but not important and leave tasks that are neither urgent nor important at the very end (or better remove these from your plan altogether!).
- Define who is responsible for what: Wisely delegate sustainability tasks to the right person on your team. When doing this, it’s ideal to keep the individual’s strengths, talents, and preferences in mind.
- Keep an eye on sustainability news: Essentially, you want to know what’s going on, so you are prepared to align your plan with current events.
- KPIs: Define tangible indicators that will help you measure success – i.e., monitor the impact you’re making through each and every task, activity and objective.
If you include these points in your plan, you’ll be on track to archive your desired outcomes. But that’s not all. We have three more important points that are essential for your business to consider when planning for sustainability.
3. Be mindful!
Expect the best but plan for the worst, aka risk management.
What do we mean? You have to consider how you’ll be dealing with unexpected circumstances that will most likely occur at some point. Covid-19 has taught us that a crisis can happen at any point. You have to be ready to be able to find strategies on how you can overcome obstacles at any given point.
What if your business suddenly loses 50% of its revenues? Plan cost-effectively.
What if one of your team members who’s in charge of a key activity gets sick? Plan people-friendly.
What if you have to deal with unexpected time-consuming challenges? Plan time-friendly.
As a general rule, planning flexibly will help you deal with uncertainty at any time.
4. Talk about it
Who hides their success? Not you. This point will help you get your community involved in your desired sustainability outcomes. By now you should have a clear idea about:
1) Which Sustainable Development Goals you can include as part of your plan;
2) How you can plan to accomplish them.
The next step is to develop a creative communications strategy on how you can talk to the public about your sustainability journey. Sustainability is a key topic right now. You talking about it will result in shared interests from the public, which eventually leads to new engagement and opportunities. Communication is crucial here.
Something to consider: While talking about your sustainability journey is something that we do encourage, be careful not to fall in the greenwashing trap! Only share what is true and be authentic about the journey you’re on. This will help your stakeholders build even more trust in your brand!
5. Monitor progress
We’re almost at the end of your sustainability planning journey. And you have one more aspect to consider.
Always monitor your progress. You can set up regular reports about planned outcomes and together with your team, discuss the success and challenges that occurred.
Monitoring progress and success is the last step and will help you adjust steps, tasks, or actions accordingly.
It is important that you consistently and regularly monitor your outcomes in order to be effective. Otherwise, you will never arrive at Point B. Take the monitoring process seriously as it saves you time, headaches, and money.
So now you have what you need to try your best with sustainability planning. And of course, if you need guidance just drop us a message and we’ll be there for you.