Sustainability 101: The 5M's of Change

5 M's of SustainabilityWe’re often asked by our clients how to implement sustainability within their organizations. It can be a daunting task, particularly for companies that aren’t already part of the LOHAS movement. However, with increasing pressure on companies from all sides, sustainability is quickly becoming a standard practice across industries. Here’s our recommendation.

Measure

All change starts with awareness. Until you realize you need to change, you won’t, and for all companies, it is impossible to know that you need to change until you know where you are. Therefore, it is our recommendation that every company start their sustainability program with measurement.

Taking a baseline measurement of your energy, carbon, water, and waste will provide you with the critical data you need to get started. Without knowing what your inputs are, it will be impossible to develop any kind of reduction targets, plan, or strategy. Need help? This is one of our areas of expertise.

Management

Now that you know what you’ve got, you’re in a position to begin to manage it. The management step is when you begin to really pay attention and determine what’s needed in order to make change. You begin to realize the consequences of your actions and develop sensitivity to your inputs and outputs. This is the perfect time to develop a strategy and an action plan, complete with goals and reduction targets.

Mitigation

This third step is where the rubber meets the road, the action step of your change effort. This is when you implement your reduction targets and truly begin to make a difference in your environmental impact.

Mitigation can be complex. It can involve actions ranging from offsetting your carbon consumption through the purchase of renewable energy credits to changing the way your employees’ behave. Only you will be able to determine the right course of action for your mitigation efforts, but we can help you identify your best bets both short-and long-term.

Monitoring

No change effort is complete without an assessment of progress. You can design the most robust waste diversion program in the world, but if your employees don’t participate, your efforts will be for not.

Periodic auditing of your performance against target is critical in order to realize the myriad benefits of sustainability, including cost savings, increased employee engagement, and reduced environmental and social impacts.

Messaging

The final piece of your sustainability plan is how you share your accomplishments. It is good practice to develop transparency as a part of your impact plan, and to disclose your performance to agencies like the Carbon Disclosure Project. You may also consider a more robust option, such as a Corporate Social Responsibility report or GRI reporting. Your investors, customers, employees, and other stakeholders will be watching—so it’s critical to provide data whenever you can.

But don’t sugarcoat—this is what’s meant by greenwashing. Companies that aren’t honest about what’s really going on in their operations can take a big hit from the media and consumers. Instead, share both your strides forward and those things that you still need to address, as honestly as possible.

Mastered the basics and ready for more?

Download our new eBook Six Important Things We’ve Learned about Building Sustainability into Your Supply Chain.

 

Since 2001, we’ve been helping our customers navigate the complexities of sustainability. Through our environmental commodities and professional services products and programs, we’ve worked with thousands of organizations to reduce their social and environmental impacts. How can we help you?

By | 2012-10-26T18:42:36+00:00 October 26th, 2012|Environmental Blog|

About the Author:

Amy brings 20 years’ experience in leadership and organizations to her work in sustainability communications for Renewable Choice. She earned her M.Ed. at Colorado State University.