The concept of sustainability is popular with businesses, but it is also elusive too. How is environmental and resource sustainability measured? How do we know if we are being sustainable?
The appeal of sustainability is overwhelming and anchored in the primary belief of mutual care for the planet and leaving the environment in good condition for future generations. Though this sentiment is worthy of praise in principle, the concept of sustainability is nothing without action and progress towards greater levels of care for the environment.
For this reason, benchmarking is important to demonstrate progress and ensure sustainability targets are hit.
Defining the Benchmarks for Environmental and Resources Development
Defining and attaining sustainable development has been an important debate for academics, scientists, public & private sectors and international forums.
Evidently, the principle of sustainable development is complex; both in theory and practice. In an ideal situation, it would mean a strategy that articulately promotes environmental conservation, enhances natural resources management, promotes the development of regional areas and has community support.
A successful environmental sustainability initiative should target simultaneous environmental, social, and economic benefits in order to benefit businesses, individuals and local communities. The following are three key resources for benchmarking your sustainability project, initiative or program.
The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability
The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability outlines 20 corporate sustainability expectations that help to advance sustainable business practices. The performance measures cover operations, stakeholder engagement, disclosure, and governance. It also covers performance measures for operations, transportation, logistics, supply chain, and employees.
The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability requires management to ingrain the commitment to sustainable development in the short term and long term operational plans. Here are some considerations:
- Enterprises will obtain at least 30% of their energy from renewable sources in the next three years and 100% in the subsequent ten years.
- Sustainability considerations are integrated into the board discussions on operational strategy, risk assessment & mitigation, and revenue allocation.
- Need for direct board involvement in sustainability operations of the company.
- Setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers.
Other benchmarks that you can factor when crafting your program’s sustainability targets include the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).
Specific Sustainability Strategies
To succeed in your sustainability efforts, it is important to ingrain the commitment to the heart of your enterprise. The ideal benchmark should target operation lag that cuts through the entire supply chain; from material sourcing to finished product distribution.
The focus should be ensuring that your products are generated in a sustainable manner and induce commitment to sustainability in the entire production and supply chain. Your enterprise should draft a resolution that its suppliers, partners, and contractors must share sustainability targets.
For example, a food processing enterprise can require suppliers to have clear sustainability plans for their production. When the entire business ecosystem activates the focus on sustainability, it becomes easier to have a bigger and positive impact on both the current and future generations.
Benchmark your Project with Industry Sustainability Tools
Today, many industries have created niche-specific tools that help them roll the sustainability wheel from one point to another. The good thing with industry-specific tools is that they are developed factoring challenges and opportunities that are specific to that sector. This helps you to pick targets that are actionable and achievable.
Good examples include the Higg Index for the apparel niche, STARS for Universities and Colleges, and RILA for the retail niche. To demonstrate this, we are going to take one industry tool; RILA.
RILA (short form for Retail Sustainability Industry Leaders Association) challenges retailers to look for the best approaches to drive sustainability. Here are some of the RILA’s requirements:
- Linking organizational profits and sustainability.
- Crafting sustainability goals with science-based targets.
- Crafting strategic partnerships to identify and address the needs of supply chain stakeholders.
- Commitment to employees’ wellbeing in strategic planning.
- Green building certification.
The Final Take
Benchmarking or measuring your sustainability efforts depends on your commitment to seeing the world become a better place. The above tools provide you with a head start to rethink your approach, strategies, and policies that are in line with sustainable principles.
Many businesses opt to benchmark themselves because they either see the collective targets lagging, too high to achieve or they want to stand out in the industry. Some companies measure themselves against peers as a method of staying competitive in the market.
To craft a reliable and workable benchmark, it is important to explore the concept widely. Besides, it is worthwhile getting everyone involved so that your sustainability efforts become like a spring that overflows to the entire business neighborhood and community.
No matter your industry, no matter the level of your enterprise operations, setting the right benchmarks for environmental and resources sustainability will make it easy to achieve the targeted goals and grow to the next level.
About the Australian Cleantech sector
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