Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have option when running a business. Rather, it’s becoming an essential corporate responsibility and a smart business in its own right. For a business setting out to develop a sustainability strategy or even define sustainability goals specific to their business, it can nonetheless be intimidating.
For many businesses, the process begins with identifying a goal suited to their particular business, such as eliminating waste. Then identifying metrics to measure the goal and a strategy to reach those metrics begins to unfold.
According to Mauricio Vianna, CEO of MJV Innovation and a leading sustainability advisor to Fortune 500 companies, the first question every business needs to ask when planning a sustainability strategy is, ‘How do we develop a business model based on sustainable principles without cutting into the company’s bottom line?’
I connected with him about where to get started when exploring a sustainability initiative for your company.
Jeff Fromm: What are some of the most common questions that companies have about implementing a sustainability program?
Mauricio Vianna: Any successful initiative starts with asking the right questions so that you can identify the correct solutions and framework for tracking results. We ask eight questions each time we begin a project:
- How do we develop a business model based on sustainable principles without cutting into the company’s bottom line?
- What are the metrics, and how do we track sustainability progress?
- How do we develop a sustainability/ESG report on those metrics?
- How do we educate and engage our employees for sustainable transformation?
- Who are the stakeholders, and is there a need to partner with an environmental organization for our particular goals?
- How do we make sure our product or service innovations do not have unintended consequences for any stakeholders?
- How do we rethink marketing our initiative to avoid greenwashing and authentically share our story with our consumers and a larger audience?
- How do we gather feedback to learn what our competitors and stakeholders think of our initiatives?
Fromm: What are some of the areas of a company that could yield the greatest sustainability reforms?
Vianna: Ideally, it is dependent on what kind of company we are discussing. In general, there are few areas where every company can benefit from the sustainability reforms.
- Energy sourcing and consumption — companies who still function in person can consider renewable and clean energy sourcing to reduce their emissions and carbon footprint.
- Waste management — Every company can design a waste management program to refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle the materials used for office work, design, and development.
- ESG framework and reporting — It’s very important for every company of every size to have their near term and long term goals involving environmental, social and governance policies. These goals need to reflect in their business models and service offerings. It is equally important to be transparent, clear and authentic while reporting their ESG initiatives and impact annually.
- Diversity and inclusion — Companies can consciously focus on developing a diverse and inclusive work environment, which would support employee well-being and increased productivity.
- Circular/Regenerative approach — By adopting a regenerative business approach, companies can redefine their stakeholders, partner with local organizations focusing on social innovation and community building, and partner or engage with local businesses to develop circular strategies for their products and services. This would help the companies to co-create solutions with consumer participation, gain trust, and grow their consumer and market investments. In short, by adopting a regenerative business model, companies can earn good fortune by doing good.
Designing an effective and long-term sustainability plan is not an effort that happens overnight. It takes strategic planning, conscious effort, and buy-in at every level of the company. However, with the right focus, companies of every size can make a difference in their environmental impact and set up future generations for success.