Beyond the Sustainability Report – 5 Tips for Sustaining Sustainability

Sustainability reporting is sweeping the nation. Keep in mind however, that sustainability isn’t only about creating a great GRI report. Companies benefit more from sustainability when it becomes an integral part of their overall mindset and operating philosophy. Communication and action can help ingrain this mindset into the bedrock of business.  

If you are debating reporting, considering following these five key steps for propelling sustainability from within.

  1. Research drives successful plans. Before developing your sustainability plan, much less your report, learn what matters most to your stakeholders by conducting stakeholder research. Gauge the concerns and perceptions of media, community members, non-governmental organizations, legislators, partners, suppliers, and industry leaders and peers. These opinions inspire innovation and improvement that generates a competitive edge. 
  2. Next, develop a sustainability plan, which includes your company’s benchmarks, goals, and metrics to measure success, based on this research. Our best clients develop these plans by integrating the ideas of a cross-sectional collaborative team, made up of employees with varying roles, business responsibilities and locations served.
  3. Now that you have a plan, communicate for action. Share this plan with your most important audience – the employees – your company’s best ambassadors. These individuals will be implementing these initiatives – or worse – choosing to ignore them. So, communicate these plans, the value of supporting company efforts, and rewards in relation to their job. Share company successes early and frequently to inspire others to join the bandwagon.
  4.  In addition to your sustainability report, consider all other communications vehicles – your company website, e-newsletter, news releases, recruitment sites and job listings. Each should consistently portray the company’s sustainability messages and priorities. Communication should also indicate your accomplishments and challenges. No need to wait for the report – take credit for what you’re doing well, and be transparent about things you’re working to improve. Tie everything to the goals outlined in your plan.
  5.  Measure your progress. Are people reading this content? What actions do they take? Studies show sustainability reporting informs investment and purchase decisions. Prove it by using website analytics to track time on site, referring clicks within your website to e-business areas and what search terms are driving traffic to your sustainability content. Monitor improved perceptions and increased dialogue through social media feedback, reader response cards from the report, and internal and external surveys. Continue refining your plan and communications to reflect what you learn.

In the spirit of collaboration, we’re interested in learning about other sustainability best practices. What other ways do you wrap sustainability into your company’s everyday operations?