Sustainability Strategy Development

Paul Downing

Sustainability is a wide term often used by organisations to mean doing the “right thing” for the environment and social welfare but how do you go about developing a strategy for such a broad subject?

In reality “Sustainability” means slightly different things to different people and nearly all sustainability strategy policies that I see have a slightly different focus depending on the context or business sector in which they are applied. SA8000, the social welfare standard tends to apply to businesses who use overseas suppliers or who employ large numbers of suppliers is less developed countries and focus on working conditions and lifestyle, whilst others like the carbon disclosure project are all about transparency in the supply chain with regards to carbon emissions.

It is virtually impossible to include all of these into one coherent sustainability policy so scoping of the project and identification of the main issues pertaining to your particular interest group or business is a critical first point in deciding where to focus management attention.

As a starting point, an initial review of your current operating practices looking at procurement, finance, project management, HR policies and operations will provide you with invaluable information with regards to the current level of sustainability commitment and engagement within the organisation. Other current certifications such as ISO 50001 (energy management systems) and ISO 14001 (environmental management systems) will provide information on what areas are probably more developed and where to look for established behaviours and processes.

Before diving in and writing a CSR policy or embracing ISO 26000 in totality, think about why you are deciding to go down this route and what your aims are in implementing such a policy. An objective initial review by a third party might reveal that you are already doing more or less than you realise.

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