Dec 06, 2019

5 steps to drive sustainability in your organisation

We often get the question from people how they can make their organisation more sustainable and what actions they can take personally. Where to start making impact?

Therefore we would like to share our lessons from a corporate environment, and hope it will give people working in both larger and smaller companies some starting points on what to do and how to do it.

We all need to take action to reduce CO2 emissions and large impact can be made by transforming existing companies into sustainable businesses. While there are many ideas in most companies, it is not just about ideas, but also how to translate ideas into concrete plans, get others along with your plans and implement the changes. We believe you can all do this, so therefore we’d like to share our lessons learned. Basically, there are just five steps that we consider to be essential for realizing impactful changes within an organisation.

Step 1: Define the challenge

A good challenge (or problem) is the starting point of change making. The challenge often becomes clear through discussions with various people inside and outside your organisation. The problem – once solved – should create value for both the organisation and for external stakeholders. It should contribute to positive change for sustainability, for which you need to support it by numbers and literature to show the opportunity size and impact. It should also be ambitious but realistic, and engage people to contribute. Examples can be to reduce energy or replace by green energy, explore new sustainable production technologies or work with clients and suppliers to make the value chain circular. It can be an interesting starting point to analyse which products, parts or processes emit most CO2 and come up with ideas how to change those by the eliminating, replacing or reducing principles.

Step 2: Identify your stakeholders top-down or bottom-up

Becoming green is not just about technical changes. The switch also requires organisational change and personal leadership. You need to list your main colleagues, clients and suppliers (i.e. stakeholders) to realise your plan. Who are the decision makers, who is supporting and who is critical in the execution? Analyse their needs and how this plan can benefit those.

Step 3: Create the business case

Your senior management probably makes decisions based on numbers, a bit on gut feeling and whether or not they like it. So your next step is to create a sustainable business case out of the opportunity. Our definition of sustainable business is a long-term profitable business with positive effects on people and planet, and its activities are within the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ as laid down by the planetary boundary model (ref. stockhold resilience center)

Which means it should be a sustainable business for both your organisation and outside. A great tool to start shaping your business case is the Business Model Canvas (many good reference guides are available online). Think in detail about who the paying client is, what their need is and why would they pay for it. Potentially you can pivot the current business model of your organisation to realise more impact.

Step 4: Set-up a strategic action plan

Now it’s time to convert the idea into practical actions and think about a strategy of how to implement changes. For that you need to understand the levers for change. These can be in people but also in the type of organisation. We recommend making a force field analysis, to understand positive drivers and competitive forces (i.e. time, interest, resources) inside and outside the organisation.

Try to understand what type of organisation you are working in and how change happens. This can be in organisational aspects such as structure and processes, resources, skills, time and investment but also in the wider context such as interests of stakeholders. Based on that you can list the key actions, who needs to do it, target dates and expected costs. It should be a decision paper for your senior management to give you a budget and approve execution. In our experience, to get that approval (but also to have a buy-in from other stakeholders), it normally works much better to ask ‘how do you think we can make the plan work together? , instead of simply asking for formal approval. They are more likely to start supporting you, collaborate and give valuable input to make the plan even better.

Step 5: Use your passion and energy

Once you have all your stakeholders on board and the plan approved, the last step is start making it work! It will not always be easy, but you will learn a lot and make impact. So put your energy and passion in it. As you should know; Passion leads to Attention. And Attention leads to Action. And Action is what we need!

Need help driving sustainability in your company? Let us know. TransitionHERO is here to have impact and help others to do so. We’d be glad to support you.