5 Questions to Ask When Building a Sustainability Strategy

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Sustainability Transformation
Organizational Transformation
Sustainability Strategy

Building a holistic sustainability strategy requires stakeholder involvement from inception to execution. The challenge is, organizations are leaning on stakeholders who have never been called upon to participate in sustainability initiatives to now step into the conversation. In addition, energy and sustainability teammates must be able to align key stakeholders to build governance frameworks and develop roadmaps.

With the growing scope of involvement in sustainability goals, understanding the interplay between internal and external stakeholders and how they impact the outcome of an organization’s sustainability strategy is key.

1. How Can Organizations Craft Credible and Transparent Sustainability Goals?

As the demand for organizations to prioritize sustainable goals increases and progressive companies set increasingly aggressive commitments, the bar continues to rise. When working to understand what it means to have a credible target, there are five main components to consider:

  • Trajectory: The goals should be aligned with science and include near-term milestones.
  • Governance Structure: There should be a structure to support accountability and decision-making throughout the journey. Acknowledging that you won’t know all the answers to get you to the next target and have processes in place to continue the momentum and accountability is important.
  • Boundary and Scope: Consider what boundaries and scopes are inclusive and need to be addressed. Scopes 1, 2 and 3 are now relevant and, in some cases, expected.
  • Internal Strategy: Is a clear internal-facing reduction strategy in place with an appropriate abatement hierarchy? This means first reducing your direct emissions before shifting to the external reduction strategy.
  • High-Quality Offsets: Utilize offsets or renewable energy credits to support your strategy as needed.

2. How Can Organizations Align Internal Stakeholders to Drive Impactful Sustainability Decisions?

Leadership plays a key role in driving this type of alignment. For team members to feel supported and empowered to make a difference, leaders must cascade the message of prioritizing sustainability goals and ensure there is a governance structure in place that includes everyone who needs to be involved. Good questions to ask when establishing internal stakeholder alignment include:

  • Are they involved in the decisions that are going to affect them?
  • Are they able to contribute?
  • Do they understand why the decisions are being made?
  • Is there a forum to bring decisions to and get leadership support quickly?
  • Are they properly resourced to effect change?

3. How Can Organizations Set Realistic Timelines for Developing and Implementing Sustainability Strategies?

A top-down strategy approach utilizing guidelines like science-based targets or Net Zero is a good place to start. Use those guidelines to establish an end state and then work backward to identify milestones over the next few years. This helps make the journey less daunting and provides a pathway to reach your desired goal. The next step when setting timelines with stakeholders is to have a clear view of your emissions footprint. This is important so you can establish what major areas you are going to address and break the approach into pieces that stakeholders can control.

Explore How to Set Attainable Science-Based Targets. Read More →

4. How Does an Organization Move Toward Sustainable Solutions When There are More Financially Viable Alternatives?

As the sustainable energy industry continues to evolve, supplier engagement will be a core solution to the issue of more economical sustainability solutions. This includes understanding your data streams and conducting a Scope 3 emissions exercise to see how significant of a footprint your supplier engagement is, including the goods and services purchased as an organization. Having insight into the data compels action by allowing you to see areas that need more attention. Right now, one of the biggest challenges includes dealing with stakeholders who haven't started to take those steps and require initial expectation setting to move forward.

5. How Does an Organization Ensure That its Claims Align With its Actions?

Clear and aligned communication on sustainability goals is challenging since the industry is moving so quickly. Simultaneously, there are a lot of organizations and stakeholders who point out, and rightly so, that we're not moving quickly enough. Ultimately, you can only go as fast as your organization can evolve. It takes time to build support and get everyone on board, not to mention overcoming the data challenges to ensure visibility. Success is increasingly a numbers game; the transition from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) framework to the environmental social governance (ESG) framework is now all about numbers, reporting, and tracking.

Ultimately, achieving your sustainability goals will include building strong partnerships that will move you forward and establishing support across the organization to tackle items within your control. While building a sustainability strategy can seem overwhelming, starting with the right expertise and data will allow your organization to face the mounting pressure to focus on sustainabiltiy in a tailored and strategic way.

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