Some entrepreneurs love the thrill of launching businesses and will happily create and sell startup after startup with little concern over the ultimate business outcome. However, most entrepreneurs want to build an organization that will last, which means they need to think critically about sustainability with their very first business plan.
Unfortunately, sustainability planning is not something that comes easily to many business leaders. Here are a few ways that help when some entrepreneurs go wrong in their sustainability planning and when they have to make ensure to groom their business that should be strong and big in the future:
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Consumers are beginning to recognize their control over the marketplace, and many consumers are opting to make purchasing decisions based on how beneficial they believe businesses to be. In the United States, 61 percent of consumers believe sustainability to be an important criterion for purchases — and business leaders take advantage of that by marketing their brands as sustainable without making any real changes to their business strategy.
Using sustainability as a PR tool might initially be beneficial, but an unwillingness to act on sustainability promises will become obvious to consumers in time. Many brands have tried and failed to leverage sustainability as merely a marketing tool; the sense of betrayal consumers feel from unmet pledges will drive them to competitors who have followed through with sustainable strategies. Executives can learn the benefits of truly sustainable change in online sustainability courses from top universities.
It is easy for executives to make a random commitment to sustainability — like achieving net-zero emissions by 2025. However, it is much more difficult to achieve that commitment if executives have no concept of their organization’s current environmental impacts. Before taking any steps to develop a sustainability plan, business leaders need to order an evaluation of the company’s current environmental performance, up and down the entire supply chain. Then, leaders will have a better sense of their starting point and the time and effort required to meet different sustainable milestones.
When it comes to business sustainability, there are two broad categories of stakeholders that business leaders must consider: deciders and doers. Deciders will approve projects and allocate resources, and doers will perform the work required to achieve established sustainability goals. Leaders need to identify these stakeholders within their organization before they begin drafting plans for sustainability.
Once stakeholders are identified, executives should assemble them into a sustainability team and work to achieve buy-in with sustainability strategies. These stakeholders should function as the organization’s proudest advocates for sustainability, and they will contribute significantly to the success of sustainability efforts.
It is impossible to determine the success or failure of any business initiative if the organization is not making the effort to measure its progress toward its established goals. It is imperative that business leaders set objectives for their sustainability strategies that are specific and measurable. From the beginning, executives should select key performance indicators and keep these KPIs consistent throughout the duration of their sustainability plan. Measuring KPIs on a regular basis will tell business leaders and sustainability teams whether they need to alter their operations to meet their goals.
Skipping the Testing Step
Every organization is different. Sustainability strategies that work for one company may cost another company undue time and money. Before business leaders apply any sustainability strategy at scale, they should test their ideas with pilot projects. For example, an organization might instruct a small branch to adopt changes outlined in its sustainability plan. If that branch shows consistent progress toward achieving sustainability goals, corporate leaders might instruct additional branches to conduct similar tests. Then, if those tests are successful, the sustainability strategy can be adopted by the entire organization with lower risk.
Few business leaders are experts in sustainability. Executives who understand and accept their limited expertise in this field might pursue advice from sustainability consultants, who have more experience building sustainability strategies that efficiently and effectively improve operations.
Sustainability is more than looking after the environment; it is building a business that can survive and thrive within its community for decades to come. Any business leader can develop a successful sustainability strategy — as long as they take steps to become better stewards of sustainability for their organization.