Each time you start down the path of creating a sustainability plan for a new client, the inevitable question “When will we be done?” pops up, right?
While it can seem overwhelming to determine when an organization can consider itself “sustainable,” since the process itself, honestly, is ongoing), you can help clients see that they are hitting goals by establishing a clear roadmap.
When you work together to establish a sustainability roadmap, it provides everyone the chance to navigate the steps needed, while also maintaining a clear picture of what has been accomplished so the positive gains can be appropriately celebrated.
While choosing to implement sustainable efforts or improve current initiatives is a wonderful first step, clients sometimes expect quick solutions. Remind them that sustainability, just like running the business, is an ongoing process. A process that requires serious discussions, strategic planning and, of course, agreement among members of the leadership team.
How to set up your roadmap
Lea Rutledge recently reviewed 35+ leading sustainability tools to better understand the existing landscape of sustainability roadmaps. On behalf of the SHIFT.tools project of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, Rutledge examined issues like: Do the programs include guided questions? Do they include recommendations? What are their various levels of effort?
The overview of her results, “To chart the course of sustainability, grab the right map” provide details about all of the programs reviewed, but Rutledge also provided three guidelines to help determine what will help you guide your team through an action plan that makes sense.
1. Know the company’s strengths AND weaknesses. The Embedding Project starts off with a 60-question self-assessment, which is likely to help organizations understand how they can best implement sustainable efforts into their business plan. To move forward, it’s often important for organizations to take a serious look in the mirror to see where they stand in comparison to peers. Another option for beginning this process is utilizing CDP.
2. Seek out the assessment tool(s) that will provide the best roadmap for your clients needs. There is an ever-growing market and an increasing number of tools that can help you create a sustainability plan in specific areas such as lifecycle assessment management, water management, supply chain management, and greenhouse gas management. You can also seek out roadmap tools that will help you in a particular sector such as consumer goods, information technology, or Smart Cities. Choosing industry-appropriate and business-size appropriate tools will help clients feel like the overarching strategy fits well with their business.
3. Maintaining clear goals will help the success of implementing your sustainability plan. While it can seem like the end result is far off, many people need to see the finish line to keep them on track. How you and your client prefer to track progress will impact your decision regarding which tools and which team members are best suted to develop and manage the roadmap. For chronological steps Rutledge suggests FutureFit, but other support options can provide graphics, matrixes, interactive templates, detailed questionnaires, indexes, or written reports depending on the type and complexity of data being tracked.
By using transparent tracking tools, you can help clients keep the end goal insight, track progress, and assess cost benefits, opportunities (and risks), and the impact that the work will have. Creating the right roadmap will help your client feel confident on their path to implementing new sustainable efforts and it will help you make sure that everyone is focused on that target.