7 Questions a Sustainability Manager Must Ask

Last Updated:
Thu, 2016-11-03 12:44
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There are seven questions that must be asked when developing and implementing an organization’s sustainability strategy. Once you get these questions answered, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of your personal mission as the Sustainability Manager, and you’ll have the outline for what it’ll take to make your organization more successful.

1. What’s our carbon footprint? First, you need to know what a carbon footprint is. You need to research the impact that your organization has on the environment. Having this answer will make you look more confident, prepared, and knowledgeable when the top executives question the relevance of a sustainability strategy. You are implementing organizational sustainability because there is a need - it will decrease expenses, raise profit, motivate employees, reduce impact on environment, etc.

2. How “green” are our products? You’ll first want to look at the products that your organization is providing. Afterall, your organization makes money (or impacts people) as a direct result of the product or service you are providing. You’ll have to look at the life cycle of a product - that is, evaluate every step of production and determine where you can become more efficient. Much of your organization’s environmental impact could be reliant on the manufacturing process.

3. Where do we stand relative to our competitors? As consumers and stakeholders become more knowledgeable about corporate sustainability, they will likely use it as a factor when determining whether to support your organization or a different one. You don’t want to work for the company that lags behind in this race. If you see that your competitors are making innovative strides in the world of organizational sustainability and design, you better believe that their sales are reflective of these changes.

4. How do we become a greener company? As the Sustainability Manager for your organization, you are responsible for determining how to proceed. You should be well-versed on GRI Reporting and comparing sustainability metrics from year to year. Having researched your competitors and pursuing a certification in a sustainability-related field, you are qualified to develop a sustainability strategy for your organization. The strategy will likely include the manufacturing and supply chain process, as well as organizational process that affect executives and employees. Sustainability is everybody’s responsibility, so your strategy should be all-encompassing.

5. How educated and engaged are our employees? More than likely, your co-workers have heard of sustainability, but they are not as knowledgeable about it as you. In order to get everyone on board with your sustainability strategy, you will need to educate them and explain why you are changing the processes that you are changing. Engaging your co-workers will make them feel included and will inspire them to contribute. You can make a difference in your organization, but you will need help from the individuals around you who are also contributing to the organization.

6. Who are our stakeholders, and what do they think of our impact on the environment? The individuals who invest in your organization will certainly be interested in the corporate sustainability strategy that you implement. Stakeholders may include suppliers, consumers, unions, employees, and investors. Your sustainability strategy will likely affect these individuals, so they need to understand why you are changing things and how the end result will be different.

7. What are our key sustainability metrics? This is one of the most important questions that you will need to consider. How can you go anywhere without evaluating where you’ve been? Fortunately, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) lays out a variety of indicators to help you navigate the metrics that you should be considering. By completing a GRI Report, you will see exact facts and figures regarding your organization’s output and impact on the environment. Then, you can use these figures going forward and compare to annual numbers that you acquire and measure. This will be helpful in analyzing your progress.

To learn more about Corporate Sustainability, please visit our ISSP Sustainability Associate training page.

By Lesley Cowie

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