If you are at the beginning of your sustainability journey, setting your strategy can sometimes be overwhelming. Even if you have come far on the way, you may need to take a step back from time to time, reflect on your strategy, maybe revise it, pick up pieces that may have been left hanging. Sustainability is a wide topic and you will never be "done". We meet several companies every day - and the number of strategies are just as many as the number of companies. As it should be, since all companies are unique. But there are some factors that are all important to consider, no matter which company you are running, and at which stage you are in your journey. Below we've gathered a couple of success factors which we believe are important for any company setting or reflecting on their Sustainability strategy in today's world, irrespective of industry, size or strategy, and some good practical examples.
1. Look at your business - where's your largest impact?
Step one for a great sustainability work is to map your company's activities and analyze where you have the largest impact on the environment and people. The goal is to minimize your negative impacts and maximize your positive impact - which is why this is different from one company to another. A manufacturing company often has a large impact throughout the manufacturing process, while a coffee importer, for instance, has a huge impact on the supply chain of farmers. For an advertising agency on the other hand, the impact may primarily lie in the message that their produced ads convey, which are spread to many people. The financial sector can influence through the companies they invest in. Some products even create most impact when it's consumed by the end user, such as detergent.
When you have identified your core impact areas it is a lot easier to be innovative and turn these challenges into business opportunities. With Swedish brand Nudie Jeans, you can submit your broken jeans for repair, and when they can really no longer be used you get a discounted price on the new ones in exchange for returning your old jeans for recycling.
2.What is Sustainability for your organization? Get support from international guidelines
Sustainability means not only environmental impact but also the social and economic aspects of the organization. Factors such as employee safety, diversity, corruption risks and ethical marketing are just a few examples of other factors to consider. Use established international frameworks for Sustainability and CSR for support in your analysis of your core impacts areas, such as ISO 26000, Global Reporting Initiative, or UN Guiding Principles.
3. Be inspired by how other actors in your industry work
A good way is also to look at how companies similar to you, who are leading the way, have tackled the question of sustainability and what they focus on. This way you can get an understanding of which areas are particularly important in your industry.
4. Revise partnerships and suppliers
A good sustainability work must go beyond the office walls if relevant to your business. Be aware of how your partners behave and be careful who you choose to connect your brand with when you choose suppliers, partners, investments and so on. This is important to minimize the risk that your company will suffer from someone else's bad reputation, but it's also a way to actually influence and change the industry.
5. Involve employees, customers, and other stakeholders
One important success factor in sustainability work is engaging your employees and involving them in the sense of making a difference. This is an increasingly important factor when choosing an employer, especially among the younger generation. Proud employees will both drive development and innovation as well as spread the message. Equally important is of course that customers experience your commitment - creating a strong competitive advantage.
6. Communicate smart and digitally
Remember to adjust your sustainability information so that everyone who has an interest in the company, and are strategic stakeholder groups, can access it. Just as all communication, also this needs to keep up with current communication methods. Many companies fail to reach out to important stakeholders by presenting their efforts only in a heavy, hard-to-comprehend document.
The Swedish Food Federation is a trade organization that made visualizes their Sustainability progress in a very simple and dynamic way on its website, where companies like Coca-Cola, Löfbergs, and Lantmännen contribute with their data. Another Swedish example is Max Hamburgerestauranger, disclosing CO2 information on their menus. Digitizing your sustainability information, instead of collecting it in documents or Excel, makes it way easier to distribute, categorize, visualize, and analyze.
7. Be transparent
To be transparent and crystal clear about how the company tackles sustainability questions and with concrete actions and measured results create credibility and shows that your company is taking it seriously. An important factor is daring to be open about your challenges, that you might share with your industry, and how you meet these challenges. Here the outdoor company Patagonia is a good example, which openly communicates which vendors to work with, what challenges they have in the industry, and what their strategy is.
Worldfavor is a user-friendly digital tool that helps companies, large as small, with the above challenges. Read more about how it can help you here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an introduction.
This article was also featured in the Swedish business newspaper Veckans Affärer, read it in Swedishhere.