Sustainability and accountability are two words that go hand in hand when running a business. If you’re not sustainable, you’re not being accountable to the environment, your customers, or your employees.
The question is, how do you marry these two concepts? Here are practical ideas:
1. Commit to It
Write down your goal and make it realistic. Treat this as a business objective that you will regularly monitor and review. Include it in your business vision and mission. Be accountable: if you’re not making progress, hold yourself or your team responsible for it.
You’ll probably want to start small. Maybe try recycling all the cardboard boxes from your office or reducing water consumption by installing low-flow faucets. Once you’ve nailed these two tasks, then move on to something more ambitious, like bringing in an independent auditor for a carbon disclosure project or climate change reporting or switching to solar energy sources for electricity (or both).
The next step is determining how much money the organization can save by implementing changes such as going paperless, turning off lights when not in use, or using energy-efficient equipment.
Create a checklist of everything you need to do regularly or periodically (e.g., review energy bills, check for leaks and cracks in pipes and faucets that cause water wastage).
Having an accountability system will help ensure these tasks get done on time without much effort on your part. Only ensure it’s visible enough so everyone can see their progress as well.
2. Create an Action Plan
Make an action plan, knowing which areas of your business will benefit most from sustainability and accountability initiatives. If you’re a manufacturing company, then perhaps it’s time to use more sustainable packaging materials or recycle waste products instead of dumping them into landfills.
If any parts can be improved upon (for example, if there are leaks in pipes), figure out what needs to change so these problems don’t happen again later down the line.
Finally, decide how much money you want or need to spend on making these changes happen. This is where having an accountability system comes in handy because it’ll also help with budgeting.
Once all those things have been figured out, make sure everyone involved knows about them too by telling them their roles in making these changes happen.
Include a date when the action plan should be completed and who is responsible for following through with this project on behalf of everyone else involved (it could even just mean sending out email reminders).
3. Measure Progress Regularly
Sustainability is an ongoing journey, so measure progress regularly and adapt your action plan as needed. Tracking data can help identify areas of improvement and ensure that your business is staying accountable to its commitments.
You might also want to consider scheduling a yearly audit of your sustainability efforts. An independent third party can provide valuable insight into areas where you’re doing well and what could be done better.
Some businesses choose to get accredited with green certifications like B-Corp or LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). These certifications allow consumers and other stakeholders to know that your business operates sustainably by following specific standards set forth by industry experts.
LEED is an international green-building system designed specifically for commercial buildings but has recently expanded into residential homes and new construction projects such as schools or hospitals.
It’s based on energy efficiency savings over time through lowered utility costs compared with other types of construction, water efficiency, CO₂ emissions reduction, waste diversion (recycling and composting), and indoor environmental quality.
B-Corp is a non-profit organization that certifies businesses as socially and environmentally responsible. The certification looks at worker compensation and benefits, environmental impact, customer service ethics, and community involvement.
4. Empower Employees
Empower employees to take action by educating them on sustainability and accountability. This ensures that your business stays true to its commitments, even when you’re not there. Plus, it makes employees feel appreciated and like they’re a part of something larger than themselves.
Some businesses have gone as far as to create an “eco-team” made up of employees passionate about sustainability. This team can help identify areas where your business can improve its environmental efforts.
You could also consider implementing policies that support green initiatives (like offering telecommuting options or bike racks). If you’re looking for more ideas, there are plenty of resources online, such as the Green Business Network (GBN), a global community of sustainable business owners and professionals.
Making your business accountable and sustainable doesn’t have to be complicated. These tips will get you started on the right path.