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sustainability strategy

How to be strategic about your businesses sustainability strategy

Want to make a difference but don’t have a specialist ESG team to guide you? Here’s a step-by-step guide to building a successful sustainability strategy from our friends at Handprint.  

Nowadays, every business, from large corporations to SMEs, is considering how it can have a more positive impact on the environment. The decision to become more sustainable is an easy one: not only is it altruistic, but consumers, stakeholders and employees all favour companies that are doing their bit to save the planet.  However, every business is different. There is no cookie-cutter approach to sustainability, and what works for a large multinational is not going to work for a small-scale start-up. Luckily, there are now hundreds of ways to have a positive impact – the challenge is choosing which is best for you. The best strategies are those that are guided by your ethos and intrinsically woven into the fabric of the business itself.  Here’s Handprint’s guide on how to tailor an approach that will work for you and the planet.

Step 1: Shift your mindset 

First things first: you may be focused on reducing the damage that you are doing as a business, but how can you have more of a positive impact?  > Reduce your negative footprint: traditionally, this has been the focal point of sustainability approaches, as businesses work to reduce their negative impact on the world around them. Think carbon emissions, waste production, but also exploitative labour conditions and tax avoidance. However, it’s only really the large companies that make, move or mine things that have the ability to make big changes in this space. Although small scale businesses should try to minimise their impact, at some point they will reach a plateau where they cannot reduce their footprint any further. Focusing only on your negative footprint limits your scope to do good, which is why you should also… > Grow your positive handprint: this approach is about having a positive impact, focusing on how you as a business can give back to the world around you. Regenerative projects such as reforestation, ecosystem protection and water cleaning projects all help the planet thrive. The best thing is that any business can have an impact in this space – there’s huge potential to bring all businesses on board, multiplying the opportunity to do good. 

Step 2: Link your business objectives to your climate pledge

It’s all very well saying that you’re investing in helping the planet, but if your sustainability actions are disconnected from your business actions, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. By tying the success of the planet to the success of your business, you can develop an effective strategy that evolves as your business grows. But how can you make the link? Think about the following questions:  > What is your company’s broader purpose? This will help identify the type of positive impact that resonates with your key stakeholders and with your values as an organization > What are the most important KPIs that capture your organization’s growth? From sales volumes to billable hours to tickets sold – all businesses have metrics that define success. Once you’ve landed on the answer to these questions, you’ll be able to commit to a pledge that connects your most important KPIs to a positive impact relevant to your business. For example, an architecture practice could choose to reforest an area of mangroves in line with the footprint of its new projects, or a health club could decide to pull 1kg of plastic from the ocean for each new member.  The possibilities are endless. By tying your KPIs to positive impact, you’ll be able to channel the motivation that makes your business succeed into actions that have a positive impact. 

Step 3: Make it stick 

You’ve decided on your strategy, now the final hurdle is making sure you stick to it. Knowledge, coordination, and value are essential to making sure everyone in your business is pulling in the same direction.  > Knowledge: selecting the right way to reduce your negative footprint and have a positive impact is challenging and requires asking a lot of questions. However, forming a strong foundation of knowledge about how your business operates is vital to avoid any surprises further down the line. Investing in clean water projects could be paradoxical if you discover that one of your suppliers is polluting waterways. Speak to as many stakeholders as possible, from your suppliers to customers to employees being checked with seemeless search to understand all the different ways your business impacts the world around you so that you can make an informed decision that works in the long term.  > Coordination: Everyone in the business needs to understand the strategy, from heads of growth and sales to finance and HR. This is especially hard in larger firms where some departments may feel removed from sustainability. However, by integrating positive actions with KPIs, employees will be more aware of the strategy and feel more empowered, knowing that their actions are contributing to meaningful investments in the planet.  > Value: Reducing negative impact often creates cost-efficiencies (e.g. thanks to the reduction of waste and energy consumption). However, it’s sometimes harder to prove the value of positive actions. Many businesses are finding that incorporating regenerative actions has been a key differentiator and set them apart from competitors. Demonstrating value over time through real-time updates helps demonstrate your credentials. This article was written by our friends at Handprint. Handprint is working with businesses of all sizes to automate regenerative commitments into business operations and guarantee credibility. By providing real-time reporting on how investments are regenerating the planet, businesses can truly grow with the planet, rather than at the expense of it. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch here Featured image by fauxels from Pexels | A team sits around a table smiling with one team member presenting from an iPad