Several years ago together with my friend Antonia Kuyumji I prepared a plan for a fast-growing company with a goal of improving its sustainability. The plan was prepared by the company’s employee for one of the executives.
Now we’re open-sourcing a template based on this report. Employees who are passionate about sustainability can use this template to prepare a sustainability action plan for their company.
Company Sustainability Plan
How [Company] can help the world and grow its business
[Company] can have a significantly positive impact on the world and grow its business by tackling sustainability issues. This can be achieved by improving our product sustainability and effectively communicating these changes to the world. This would increase people’s awareness of sustainability issues, and make the [Company] product more appealing to its target audience. This document explores how these goals can be achieved.
- [Company] is already sustainable-by-default to a certain degree and has a great basis for becoming an industry thought-leader in the sustainability area.
- The positioning of the brand as sustainable can help grow the business.
- The company executives need to address sustainability issues internally and externally, to put it on the company culture’s agenda.
- In order to achieve that, there is a need for a dedicated leadership role for sustainability in the company.
What is sustainability?
“Sustainability is an approach to design and development that focuses on environmental, social, and financial factors that are often never addressed.” — Nathan Shedroff
Sustainability focuses on efficient and effective solutions that are better for society and the environment by promoting the following actions:
- Decrease in carbon footprint
- Reduce over-consumption
- Decentralization and more
Many of these aspects are already practiced by [Company] and should be leveraged.
Why Should [Company] Care?
Despite the high levels of urban development and economic growth worldwide, the true costs of growth have been unaccounted for in today’s models. Humans reached a critical point in time where, without proactive action, it will challenge our way of life. We need to start taking accountability for the cost that our development has on the environment. If we do so, we can create a sustainable future and — with a little innovation and intelligence — continue living in a clean world.
As a mission-driven company, [Company] is already creating solutions for the future, where 66% of the world population will be living in major cities by 2050. As a part of our vision, we’re looking to help cities find solutions and build infrastructure for the upcoming urban population growth.
In addition to creating enough space for everybody, there are more critical issues that will touch the world population, that we could help to resolve:
- CO2 and Global Warming — We are experiencing the highest historical carbon dioxide levels in the past three glacial cycles spanning 400,000+ years, a major contributor to global warming. According to NASA, this will create:
- More frequent wildfires
- Longer periods of drought in some regions
- An increase in the number, duration, and intensity of tropical storms
- Reduced agricultural yields
- Health impacts in cities due to heat, and more
2. Clean Energy
- Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource. They are one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
- Due to absorbing increased levels of carbon dioxide since the industrial revolution, oceans are becoming more acidic. This affects marine life and can affect the food chain that we also depend on.
- Only 1% of fresh water is easily accessible to people and we are mismanaging this finite resource through pollution and waste. The freshwater shortage will become an increasingly pressing issue with our strong population expansion.
During the last decades, generations were busy industrializing our society without the requirement to consider the full-cycle impact of production and consumption.
Today, millennials are becoming more aware of these issues and feel a responsibility towards resolving them. [Company] is in a great position to increase this awareness further and leverage its own sustainable actions to become more appealing to millennials.
What Are the Benefits of Sustainability to [Company]?
Improved Brand Perception
Sustainability issues have a strong link to brand perception. [Company] is currently investing an effort in community development and philanthropy, which is amazing and we should continue doing it. However, Energy & Climate Change has an almost equal impact on brand perception, and Environment Policy & Reporting is 1.5x more impactful*.
*Relevant for 2012, I’d assume that today Environment issues have an even bigger impact.
In addition, being a sustainable brand could be a competitive differentiator for [Company].
Potential Revenue Growth
In 2015, 66% of millennials said they’re willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, up from 55% in 2014, and 50% in 2013.
In addition, many sustainability issues are implemented by reducing consumption. This can be translated to reduced costs (optimizing electricity use = better sustainability = reduced costs).
Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent
Millennials are more likely to choose to work in a company that shares their values, and “will go out of their way to work for a company that demonstrates a genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility, environment, and sustainability. If companies fail to prove that they are sincere about environmental and social sustainability, they risk alienating this group both as customers and employees.”
Increased Attractiveness to Enterprise
- Enterprise clients will demand more sustainable solutions from [Company] within time.
- Once positioned as a sustainable solution, [Company] would immediately become more attractive for enterprise clients, since it would become a part of their corporate responsibility agenda and make them more attractive to clients and investors.
Why Now, Not Later
Foundation for CSR
With our continuous growth, our investors/public will start expecting [Company] to have a Corporate Social Responsibility department. Whether we’ll decide to create it or not, improving our commitment to sustainability will help us reduce this pressure to have it, and serve as a great foundation for creating this department in the future.
Better early than late
[Company] is in a growth position. It will be easier for us to adjust our culture and stands as early as possible and at our current scale.
Fits the do-good narrative
Our CEO is publicly talking about [Company]’s steps for doing good for the communities and the world. Sustainability is something that can perfectly fit this narrative.
Strategy & Next Steps
Communicate our commitment to sustainability internally — by the CEO and other executives in smaller forums. Employees should feel that it’s a part of the company’s agenda and not just a “nice to have”. It would make employees feel that they have “permission” to act.
Evaluate the existing situation with sustainability. [Company] is already intentionally or unintentionally taking care of some sustainability aspects. We should track them so we can create a baseline and potentially collect the knowledge from different locations to share it with others.
Improve sustainability issues with high-visibility (Appendix 1). Taking care of the basic issues we’re having right now (like packaging) will allow us to see the initial reaction of our customers and evaluate the value of it.
Celebrate internally the achieved goals & start communicating externally. At this point, we should be comfortable to start a low-key external communication on the website and experiment on how it affects business growth.
Improve low-visibility aspects (Appendix 2). Our commitment should go further to the issues that are not necessarily visible to our customers (like working with fair trade vendors).
Communicate externally more aggressively. In parallel with the previous point, we should feel comfortable presenting [Company] as a sustainable solution or at least with a concrete commitment towards being sustainable.
Create a dedicated sustainability role at [Company]. In order to implement this project, we’ll need a dedicated full-time person who will coordinate this effort and provide all involved parts with needed support and information. Ideally, it should be a person with project management skills and a passion for sustainability. This person should report to our [COO]. [Head of HR] can assist in hiring the right person and [Chief Culture Officer] could explore if there is the right person who is already part of [Company] and could be shifted to this role.
The Sustainability Lead creates and executes the sustainability strategy. They monitor the environmental and social impact of a company and improve its performance while protecting or enhancing the company’s reputation. They achieve efficiencies in the company’s bottom line by cutting energy and water use, reducing waste generation and carbon emissions.
This report was prepared by [Your name], a [senior software developer] in [Billing department]. I’ll be happy to provide all the needed assistance in establishing the sustainability strategy and finding the right Sustainability Lead for [Company]. For any feedback/requests feel free to contact: [email].
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