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5 Sustainability Questions You Need to Answer

5 Sustainability Questions You Need to Answer


By Susan Buchanan, Senior Director, Assessment Services, Accruent

Implementing sustainability practices into your organization is not only important from an ecological standpoint – it’s increasingly important to stakeholders. Many organizations that rely on government funding and other investors often must report on their activities that promote energy conservation and reducing their impact on the environment.

You should have clear messaging around your sustainability program to show your professionalism and commitment. Here are five questions around sustainability that you should be able to answer as an organization.

1. Does your organization have a sustainability program?

This may seem like a simple question, but to answer it would require an agreement of what sustainability means to your organization. To set a sustainability program in place, define what components it’s comprised of and be ready to defend how it supports your organization’s overall mission. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to re-think your sustainability program.

It may be wise to define deadlines for certain goals, such as using recyclable-only items in the office by a set date. Other goals are ongoing, such as continuing to reduce your water consumption, energy use and carbon footprint, and can be broke up into several milestones with progressive deadlines.

2. What sustainability challenges does your organization face?

A solid plan should always factor in the possible challenges and obstacles that could prevent it from being successful. Your organization should determine the biggest challenges that pose a threat to your sustainability plan, then define details on how you are managing these issues. For example, getting employee buy-in and engagement on sustainability initiatives may be a big challenge for an organization. Ways in which this issue can be addressed includes regular communication on sustainability practices, reports on initiative progress and creating incentives to participate.

3. How do you compare to competition?

Do your research and have the facts ready. If a prospective customer only partners with organizations that are equally focused on sustainability, your organization will not only need to be able to articulate your program’s success, but also how that compares with your competitors.

When researching competition, be sure to include similar companies in your industry as well as similar-sized companies in your geographic area. Comparing by location is important, as certain areas may have unique challenges in achieving sustainability.

4. How are you measuring progress?

Developing and implementing a sustainability plan is just the first step in the process; you need to show that a positive difference is made when you put the plan into action. This can be achieved through measuring your energy spend and determining ROI from sustainability investments. Many industry-specific measurement tools are being developed to help organizations with this daunting task.

Though it may take a few iterations before your organization can optimize your reporting methods, it will be in your best interest to summarize your techniques so that you can not only share your findings, but also explain how you got them.

5. What business value have you seen?

When it comes to business, where everything possible needs to be translated into dollar amounts. With data-driven results, this should be easier to determine and share with your CFO for continued support in your sustainability program.

Qualitative value should also not dismissed. Find the stories that demonstrate how your organization’s sustainability initiatives have improved employee happiness and retention, raised community support and turned your brand into a sustainability thought leader. These will go a long way in recruiting like-minded candidates and prospective customers.

Defining your sustainability program has myriad benefits. Working through these questions will help you review your sustainability program and identify any gaps or weaknesses that need to be addressed. Once you have the answers, your organization is better equipped to target prospective customers and include your sustainability program as a strong selling point. These answers can also serve as an internal training tool that will quickly get employees up-to-speed on your sustainability initiatives and help bolster buy-in across the organization,

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