How to measure sustainability within your business
20th October 2020
Every decision you take to make your business more sustainable is a step in the right direction. Targeted changes allow smaller businesses to build up to making a long-term impact, and those that embrace sustainability should be celebrated.
Sharing successes shows your customers, stakeholders, and employees you’re a value-based business, committed to a sustainable future.
And to communicate your successes, you need to be able to measure it first.
Sustainability: the bigger picture
Sustainability should focus on the environment but will also cover your social and economic impact. Sustainability is also about the positive effect you have on the wider community and the lives of your employees.
Reducing your carbon footprint is important, but look at the wider picture, too.
Can you demonstrate how many hours of charity work your employees have carried out? Can you run a donation drive for the local foodbank? Quantifying your efforts will make clear the extent of your good work. These suggestions are measurable and demonstrate the positive community support.
What exactly can you measure?
What gets measured gets improved. Identifying the areas which you’d most like to work on - whether monitoring energy consumption or community outreach programmes - is the first step.
Once you’ve nailed that down, you can work out the best way to measure them and set your key performance indicators (KPIs). Want to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill? You should start by recording how much is generated and how much of that is recycled or monitor the use of single-use plastic. Social focuses might include money raised during charity fundraising events by employees, or volunteering time.
Setting ambitious but realistic KPIs will give you clear objectives, and can help you to obtain measurable data on your sustainability journey. Simple changes include adopting smart meters and ensuring your energy supply is renewable.
How do you report it?
Different businesses will measure and report differently. There are a few frameworks, for different business types:
- The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs): These 17 goals aim for a better and more sustainable future for everyone. They include good health and wellbeing, affordable and clean energy and climate action. Many businesses choose to report on sustainability progress across all these areas, or only those most relevant to their business.
- Draw from reporting standards and frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
- Climate impact & greenhouse gas emissions: If you decide to report your greenhouse gas emissions, there are some guides available to help you get started - you can find out more here.
Why is it important for businesses to set sustainable goals that they can measure?
Businesses have a responsibility to operate sustainably. Increasingly, there’s an expectation for organisations to make a positive contribution to society.
These contributions can benefit you, too. Community engagement could give you an edge over competition, as ethical and socially responsible companies are more attractive organisations to work with.
There are many potential benefits that come from having a strong and authentic sustainability agenda. Consumers now make conscious decisions to choose companies aligned to their personal values. There are also financial benefits , with savings from a reduced carbon output.
Demonstrating your sustainability can also impact your own recruitment, as would-be employees may be more likely to choose a company with a greener outlook.
Most importantly, it’s about contributing towards the health of the planet.
We can make progress when we know how to move forward. Setting up a clear framework that tracks your achievements and shows where there is room for improvement will help you to maintain a clear vision for a zero-carbon future.
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