Sustainability is a big topic nowadays, and it can feel like an intimidating one to approach. There is so much information out there about what’s happening to our planet, the importance of being environmentally friendly, and sustainability - which can make knowing what sustainability goals to set difficult. Once the goals have been decided on, it doesn’t stop there - actually achieving sustainability goals within a company can also be a difficult task.
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a framework to kick off your company's journey to being more sustainable.
1. Start the conversation
The first step to making sustainable changes to anything is to get a conversation going about it. You need to open up a conversation about the following:
- What knowledge you already have on the topic of sustainability
- Why you think it’s important to start focusing more on sustainability
- Anything that you’re already doing regarding sustainability
- How you think being more sustainable will fit in with your business
It is important that this conversation is started with all employees - that could be with a presentation, a meeting or a group chat - get people talking about what sustainability means to them, what they think the business is doing for the planet already and in what areas they think that it could be doing more.
2. Set sustainability values
If you want your business to be more sustainable, environmental values have to run through the entire company, and you can only achieve this if the whole team is on the same page.
Without values, it’s difficult to know what you want to achieve and therefore, difficult to set goals. Values also help the whole team to be on the same page, in preparation to start working towards your goals. Some questions to consider when finding your values are:
- Why does it matter to be more sustainable - what are your motivations?
- What does sustainability look like in this industry?
- What effect does being more sustainable have on the business and on your clients?
- Where does sustainability fall on your priority list?
These should help to give you a rough guide when you’re creating goals and should provide some purpose and motivation for the team to work towards them.
3. Use your values to set realistic goals
So you’ve started a discussion around sustainability with employees, and you’ve discovered your values - now you can start actually setting goals and creating environmental initiatives for your business.
A good way to go is to start with small wins:
- If you have an office, what can you do to reduce energy consumption? Are all of the lights switched off when people leave? Are computers and chargers switched off at the end of the day?
- Can you ensure that the office has somewhere for people to recycle and that everyone is aware of how the system works?
- Think about what new policies you could introduce such as a sustainable procurement policy for office supplies, electronics, furniture etc. - what can you get second hand? If you can’t get something second hand, can you find a more sustainable supplier?
- Can you use incentives such as providing everyone with reusable bottles or coffee cups to discourage use of plastic ones?
- Invest in some office plants and make your space more green - not only is this great for the planet, but it’s great for people and productivity too!
OnOnce you have implemented some of these smaller changes, it’s time to start looking at the bigger changes that are going to have the most impact. These changes will depend on what industry you work in but some core areas to look at are:
- Suppliers - are your current suppliers the most sustainable option? If not, it might be time to look at switching.
- Energy - is it possible to switch to green energy? This can apply to your office, web hosting, or any other area where you’re using energy.
- Working habits - can your employees move to hybrid working if they aren’t already? If you’re already hybrid, can employees do more days at home? This will help cut down emissions from transport.
- Giving back - have a look at environmental volunteering opportunities for employees. Set up an annual volunteering day with a local charity that everyone can get involved in.
- Carbon offsetting - for any emissions that you really can’t cut down on anymore, it is worth offsetting this carbon through a company such as Ecologi or Fenix Carbon. You can find out more about this in our interview with Dan from Fenix Carbon.
- B Corp - finally, you can look into becoming a certified B Corporation. This is a great way to hold your company accountable and can help give guidance on how to become more sustainable. Getting certified is a long process and does cost money, but if you’re serious about helping the environment then this is a great way to go.
4. Get the team involved
Business goals can’t be achieved without everyone in the business working towards them. Once environmental initiatives have been set up, the first thing to do is to make everyone within the business aware of what they are and what role they will play in achieving it.
It can be easy for environmental goals to feel abstract and this can make it difficult for people to get involved. Creating specific goals for each team or even each team member can help to keep everyone on track and make sure that you are actually achieving what you set out to achieve.
5. Do your research
If you’re reading this, then you’ve already started this step! Start off by reading some articles about sustainability in your industry (if you also work with digital products then you can check out this article to find out more about sustainability in the digital world). If you’re struggling with setting values, it might be worth doing some research on climate change and what effect your particular industry is having on the planet.