How you should prioritize your sustainability goals

How often do you evaluate and reset your strategy?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Practically speaking, I know that most people who care about corporate sustainability care first about business. About ensuring that their company or whatever their organization does is the healthiest, more profitable, most innovative in its competitive set. I get that.

In that vein, I LOVED this post over at the Harvard Business Review Web site about WHY businesses should think about sustainability. The post is by Andrew Winston, co-author of "Green to Gold" and author of "Green Recovery: Get Green, Get Smart and Emerge from the Downturn on Top."

In Winston's mind (he's looking for feedback), there are three inter-related "Sustainability Forces" that impact strategy at any given moment. He describes these forces as sort of like a roulette wheel that spins around each other. Like a marble, we kind of get bounced around among these forces, which are:

  • Things that challenge species survival, like climate change, biodiversity, water scarcity and waste management, and things that society wants to handle better, such as social equity, distribution of labor.
  • "Tectonic" magnifiers that affect the economy, mainly technology, resource availability and globalization. These also will make certain issues more important for your company than others. Thus, frankly, the fact that beverage companies worry so much about water supply and water usage as a divining road.
  • And, stakeholder opinions. These people aren't just your shareholders. They include your customers, consumers at large, employees and, of course, the government.

What you'll prioritize will depend on how the different forces align at a given moment in time, according to Winston.

Which reminds us all again that:

  1. Corporate sustainability is an ever-moving target. Yesterday, when I was reading Kraft's sustainability report and noticed they had already surpassed several self-set targets, I thought: "Great!" Then, I asked: "So, when you are going to raise the bar?"
  2. You need tools that analyze in real time, not just a moment in time. Yes, I know that getting a grip on your carbon footprint is not easy. But, once you do, why would you report it just once a year?
  3. Your staff needs to anticipate. Just as you would keep an eye on demographics, supply chain issues and other events that would affect your organization's overall competitive position, you must watch for and be able to manage events and developments that will affect your sustainability strategy.

For good measure, you might want to read these 10 tips from the VP of global sustainability at Procter & Gamble.

You can follow Andrew Winston on Twitter at this handle: @GreenAdvantage. For that matter, you can follow me: @HeathClancy.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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