How to Create a Sustainability Plan for Your Business: Decarbonization Roadmap Example
By Ally Lodge
Does your business have a sustainability plan? Increasingly, sustainability planning will be an important focus for businesses everywhere, as governments and consumers worldwide have begun demanding more responsible and eco-conscious behavior from corporations.
However, when it comes to sustainability, many businesses struggle to balance their priorities and lack a coherent strategic roadmap to bridge the gap between planning and implementation. According to Forbes, 90% of business executives think sustainability is important, but only 60% have actually implemented a sustainability plan.
We’re hoping to help change that by giving businesses roadmap tools to easily organize, implement, and scale their sustainability initiatives and decarbonization efforts.
Why is a Sustainability Plan Important?
A sustainability plan is a strategy to improve the long-term viability of a business through the responsible use of social, economic, and environmental resources. Although implementing a sustainability plan may increase business and operating costs upfront, ultimately sustainability planning improves business health and profitability in the following ways:
Benefits of Sustainability Planning
1. Enhance brand value and increase customer loyalty: 88% of consumers report that they will be more loyal to a company that supports environmental or social issues. 66% of consumers report that they will spend more for a product from an eco-conscious brand.
2. Reduce costs and increase operating profits: A study by McKinsey found a significant correlation between a company’s responsible use of resources and improved financial performance. The same study found that a business can improve operating profits by up to 60% by reducing their use of carbon, water, and raw materials.
3. Increase sales and profitability: According to NYU, sales of products that had visible sustainability claims grew 5.6x faster than products that didn’t between 2013 and 2018. In 2015, 53% of businesses that implemented a sustainability plan reported increased profits.
4. Attract better talent: As Millennials and Gen Z begin to make up the majority of today’s workforce, employees prioritize working for sustainable companies. Almost 40% of Millennials report that they have chosen a job because of a company’s sustainability plan and nearly 75% report that they would accept a smaller salary to work at a company that is environmentally responsible.
5. Maintain supply chain partnerships: According to Deloitte, 46% of businesses have begun to require their supply chain partners to meet specific sustainability criteria.
6. Reduce governmental and regulatory intervention: Environmental consciousness and responsible use of resources can reduce adverse effects of regulatory intervention. Since 1972, worldwide environmental laws have increased by 3800%. With the US, EU, Australia, and other governments around the world taking aggressive actions toward reducing carbon emissions, businesses that fail to implement sustainable practices now may be exposed to costly financial and regulatory pressure in the future.
7. Capitalize on new business opportunities: Over the past three years, governments worldwide spent $1.2 trillion improving energy efficiency and sustainability. With this trend expected to increase, sustainable businesses will be positioned to capitalize on new market opportunities.
Creating a Sustainability Plan
Creating a sustainability plan may seem like a daunting proposition for many businesses. Afterall, businesses have many moving parts and big goals like ‘reducing carbon emissions’ may seem vague, impractical, and impossible to achieve.
Before creating a sustainability plan, it’s important for business leaders to undertake the following steps to narrow their focus into achievable goals:
1. Educate themselves on sustainability: It’s important for businesses to understand the importance of sustainability and educate themselves on the laws and compliance standards that will impact their business (both now and in the future). Doing so will give weight to their sustainability plan, help them identify opportunities for improvement, and gain buy-in from key stakeholders within their organization.
2. Identify high-level areas for improvement: Next, business leaders should assess their business to identify broad areas for improving sustainability. This stage isn’t the time to get hung up on details or discouraged by specifics, but rather to help direct their focus and develop their vision.
3. Develop an overarching vision: From there, it’s important for business leaders to develop an overarching vision for their sustainability initiatives. This vision will help guide the creation of their sustainability plan and inspire action from other members of their business.
4. Break their vision down into specific, measurable goals for improving sustainability: At this point, it’s time to outline specific, measurable goals for improving sustainability. The information gained during the first three steps will help identify specific goals.
Designing a Roadmap
Business roadmap tools can help businesses implement their sustainability plan by breaking down each goal into realistically achievable steps. By helping outline the following, business roadmap tools make implementing a sustainability plan more feasible, efficient, and less likely to be derailed by unforeseen circumstances:
1. Define Challenges: First, the business needs to understand what challenges it must overcome to become sustainable and identify areas for improvement.
2. Outline Objectives: Next, the business matches objectives, or goals, to each challenge.
3. Assess Capabilities: Once objectives have been defined, the business needs to assess its current capabilities to understand which objectives it already has to the capacity to achieve, as well as what tools it needs to invest in.
4. Assign Actions: Next, the business assigns specific actions to bridge any gaps in capabilities.
5. Prioritize Initiatives: The business then groups actions into logical packages of work known as initiatives to organize their execution.
6. Generate a Roadmap: Finally, the business organizes initiatives on a time horizon, generating a visual document known as a roadmap.
Today’s roadmap tools provide features like capability maps, pre-built content, interactive prioritization matrices, and cost-benefit calculators that make generating a sustainability roadmap faster and more streamlined.
Once the sustainability roadmap has been generated, business leaders can easily disseminate this visual document to other stakeholders, departments, or members of their team. Doing so will ensure that each facet of their organization will be working in lockstep toward achieving their sustainability goals.
By accounting for potential hurdles, assigning correct actions to each department, and creating a time horizon for each initiative, roadmap tools allow businesses to easily implement a sustainability plan that has a high chance of success.
Decarbonization Roadmap Example
Below is an example of an organization using a roadmap tool to create a decarbonization roadmap.
Step 1: Defining Challenges
First, the organization defines the challenges they’ll face in reducing their carbon emissions.
In this example, the business has identified 5 key challenges:
1. Sourcing more sustainable materials.
2. Optimizing transportation and logistics.
3. Implementing energy-efficient practices.
4. Administering waste reduction strategies.
5. Promoting eco-friendly behavior by their consumers.
(Notice that often challenges are really opportunities. By tackling these five obstacles, the business will be greatly reducing its operating expenses, increasing its efficiency, and using their sustainability plan to build customer equity.)
Step 2: Assigning Objectives to Each Challenge
Next, the company creates an objective, or goal, that corresponds to each challenge.
By linking objectives to challenges, a decarbonization roadmap helps the company direct and refine its efforts. Below is a summary of objectives that the roadmap tool generated:
Step 3: Assessing their Capabilities
At this point, the company has a list of goals – but does it currently possess the organizational capabilities it needs to achieve them?
Mapping their current capabilities helps the organization understand what it already has to capacity to do, but also shows them what capabilities they need to invest in.
Step 4: Assigning Actions to Improve Capability
Next, the business in this example generates a list of specific actions they need to take in order to improve their capabilities and accomplish their objectives.
Each action is assigned to a specific department to ensure that the entire organization is doing its part to effectively implement a sustainability plan. While building their decarbonization roadmap, big goals that once seemed hard to achieve become increasingly granular, and thus achievable.
Step 5: Creating Initiatives
After defining the correct actions, the company groups these actions into initiatives. Doing so allows them to create logical packages of work that can be easily assigned throughout the organization.
An interactive prioritization matrix helps the company quickly assess the risk and reward of each initiative and prioritize them accordingly.
The roadmap tool generates a summary of their initiatives based on the priority they established.
Step 6: Generating a Decarbonization Roadmap
Next the business creates a time horizon for their initiatives. The roadmap tool takes all of this information and generates a visual document of the decarbonization roadmap, which can be easily shared throughout their organization.
The decarbonization roadmap provides a time horizon that describes which initiatives should be delivered in which sequence, based on priority and capability. This decarbonization roadmap will help the company implement and execute its sustainability plan – both in the near-term and in the future.
Start Building Your Sustainability Plan Today
Does your organization make up the 40% of businesses that haven’t implemented a sustainability plan? Or are you looking to improve organization for your existing plan? We invite you to try Jibility – our free strategic roadmap tool shown in the examples above.
Jibility makes it fast and easy to design and implement a sustainability plan or decarbonization roadmap for your organization, empowering you to do your part to protect the environment and support the communities that support your business.