Businesses embedding or practicing sustainability will achieve more success if they can effectively identify, prioritize and implement their sustainability efforts.
1. Identify - Picking the right sustainability targets
The threat of unsustainable politics and “business as usual” economics is one of humanity’s most dire threats. But, as the sustainability sector advances technologically and politically, investing in sustainability is becoming more profitable and sensible.
Businesses have the choice to continue their dependency on privatized energy giants or lay the groundwork for future-friendly business by practicing sustainability. Ultimately, identifying worthwhile sustainability targets requires accurate impact measurements and performance evaluations to understand when, what, and how to enter the field.
To exist in the world of sustainability, it’s crucial to grasp how technology is changing our world, and, more specifically, how that's happening.
Technologies that make virtual reality (VR), the Internet of Things (IoT), software development, infrastructure, energy storage and supply chain transparency possible are accelerating society’s ability to preserve the environment while increasing economic and social equity. And, from a standpoint, it’s more profitable to do so. This opportunity exists because the world population is projected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and by that time roughly 68% of the world population wil be living in cities. This means that every industry needs to innovate. And, if you look at the evolution of these technologies, you’ll see that the trend is exponential and opens many doors to go through.
By mapping out your impact areas in terms of social equity, waste, energy efficiency, and so on, you can visualize energy as a moving part, allowing you to pinpoint where exactly you should focus your resources. There are many tools on the web, but if you would like one that is comprehensive and visual, try out the Sustainable Value Impact Map.
Therefore, by targeting sustainability, you’re shooting for net zero waste, product innovation and profitable returns. But, in the interim, you need to know what works and what doesn’t; where to innovate and where not to.
2. Prioritize - The target moves systematically
Sustainability benchmarks sourced from successful industry leaders are a wonderful place to start, but benchmarks alone can’t put your targets into a reliable context. You need to know where your target is, which takes accurate data and rigorous analysis.
Businesses can begin taking systematic steps towards sustainability by understanding where they are and what targets they’re shooting for. As sustainability is understood as a system that is contingent upon political and economic limits, the systematic failures of current business models and energy sources can be used to underscore what not to do. Not knowing what to do, and why, is a good way to create projects and plans that you should do.
For example, as carbon taxes and subsidies offset the cost of sustainability by incentivizing high waste businesses to use less energy; nature wins because those businesses will have a smaller carbon footprint and clean-energy wins because it stimulates sustainable development.
Your business should take advantage of these opportunities as they arise. Again, performance reporting and impact analysis mandates can hold these same businesses more accountable, creating more room in the market for sustainability champions - this is where you should be scanning for ways to hop into the market.
Even more, you must anticipate when and how these changes will affect your business.
As policy greens, businesses envisioning sustainability will miss their targets if prioritization and planning processes forego relevant standards and policies. Sustainable management systems and sustainability experts will go a long way in facilitating success in the field.
3. Implement - Knowing how to hit your target
Understanding how these policies and benchmarks influence and shape your sustainability journey is imperative. This is because your team will need to be prepared to effectively intervene, bypass or overhaul any systems obstacles. And that takes a lot of data, trial-and-error, and money.
For example, the city of Zurich, Switzerland is voting to pass legislation that will require more vegan and vegetarian options in public facilities, which is a system overhaul because it drives behavioral and industry changes by lowering demand in the meat industry. This decision will change the meat industry and its clients' as well.
At first glance, it appears that this policy is simply going to decrease meat consumption. But, by lowering meat consumption in public facilities, the city is essentially opening the door to a plethora of new markets for the restaurant and agriculture industries among many others.
For example, new restaurants should champion this move by branding themselves as sustainable by committing to 100% renewable energy and serving only sustainable dishes. It’s catchy and it appeals to consumer interests to serve innovative dishes. And who knows, maybe the city will help fund the installation of solar panels on their roof.
To effectively hit your target, you’ll need to define your goals by comprehensively evaluating business performance, environmental and social impact and growth capacity. Then, industry and policy variables must be accounted for to guide your planning and investment strategies. At this point, it's finally time for implementation.
Whether the target is to disrupt the energy market by sourcing only renewable energy or choosing to better manage environmental and social performance; the only way to hit your sustainability targets is to choose targets that are feasible by knowing how and when to hit them.