`Help – Where do I start first?`
`How do I keep the momentum!?`
`How can I get more support?`
Wherever you are with the topic of sustainability, a seasoned pro or a keen newbie, we all experience the feeling of being overwhelmed at some point on the path to making our businesses, and indeed lives, more sustainable. Here are 3 tips as relevant to those just getting started, as they are to others well into their journey.
1) Know what sustainability means for you and use existing structures
What is sustainability actually about?
The rising level of attention is great and has lead to a whole host of structured approaches to address that question, however this can also cause confusion. Whilst widening knowledge is always advantageous, you certainly do not need to know about every concept, and quite frankly it’s not possible. A great place to start is with understanding what sustainability means for your business context. Talk to customers, sector peers or your community and ask them which concepts they find interesting and relevant.
At HOS, we believe it’s about taking a balanced approach to people, planet and prosperity, looking after all three areas in unison to make sure positive impacts are maximised and negative impacts are minimised whilst a profitable business model is maintained.
Having a largely international focus, we align closely with global stakeholder economy frameworks such as the B Corp Movement, as well as global equitable development frameworks including the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Global Compact. Such bodies lay out clear foundations on what companies need to be focus on to take responsibility for the people and places they impact, as well as offering the opportunity to be part of a larger active circle of positive change in the world.
2) Understand your area of influence, start there and then widen
Get clear on which people, groups and communities you impact and how interested they are in changing the status quo. A methodical way to do this is by conducting a Materiality Assessment which establishes all topics of importance for a business, again with the triple lens on social, environmental and economical areas. Materiality assessments are a required foundation for all reputable reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and are of rising relevance due to the Corporate Sustainable Reporting Directive (CSRD).
These assessments and the often resulting ‘Materiality Matrix’ give a helpful overview of all topics for consideration. With this full picture you can build a short–mid–long term sustainability strategy, but of course you will not be able to do everything at once. Materiality processes prompt you to look at interest levels along with the scope of impact in order to prioritise. Smaller companies and those with limited resources should be mindful to focus on just a few initiatives in the 12 months following their first assessment in areas where they know they have influence and ability to change things with certain stakeholder groups.
For example; focusing on employee training and wellbeing, rather than trying to change the ways of a large supplier. By doing this, you keep things manageable and satisfying, which will help to grow the momentum rather than leaving you overwhelmed and demotivated. Typically, when the first few improvements have been successfully implemented, people are left hungry to find new ways of creating positive change.
3) The golden rule: Do not act alone!
This is the main reason why even the best strategies fail.
Our human DNA means we thrive of interaction and support. Not only does it make things easier and more fun, but by involving more people you have a snow-ball effect of impact by raising awareness and showing ways to act. Together we are always stronger!
If in your company, you feel there is resistance to change on a formal level, start small by speaking to colleagues and trusted team-mates. Go for a walk and talk in nature over lunch, prompt discussion by sharing the latest bit of interesting news on sustainable actions by others, ask people if they are interested in seeing what could be improved at work. I am certain you will find like-minded people to get things going.
For those companies looking to take a more hands on approach on involving more team members in sustainable improvements take a look at our Sustainability Champions Programme.
Should the feeling of being overwhelmed creep up from time to time (as it so often does), remember even the smallest actions are incredibly important nudges to those around you. Keep leading by example and don’t be shy to speak up – you are what the world needs.
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