How Do You Define Sustainability?
Sustainability can be an intimidating prospect for a company. The fact that it’s difficult to define, it can put people off. The idea seems gargantuan, analogue and unattainable. It includes the environment and the future and how we need to fix it and what the opportunities are and how we’re failing and on and on. Creating a definition of sustainability for yourself is one of the first steps in a sustainability strategy. Knowing what sustainability means to your business will keep you focused and help guide you as you begin with strategies.
Sustainability traditionally considers the environmental, social, and governance aspects of a company. This means their environment footprint, social impact (non-profit donations, benefit policies) and governance (board structure, stock information). Take whatever parts of this are material to your business. For many smaller businesses, this means focusing on environmental and social goals.
Here’s a secret, create your own definition and start your strategy from there.
Defining sustainability in your own words makes it more manageable. Only when you have the definition of something as you truly understand it, will you want to follow through. Something you have defined and created yourself holds more meaning. But how to do it? Start with an end goal in mind. What does a sustainable company look like to you? Lower electricity bills? Website information sharing farm sources. Having an end goal in mind helps get you closer.
To start defining it for your company, gather multiple definitions. Yes, the multiple definitions can be overwhelming, but they are a valuable starting point. The U.N. Commission on the Environment and Development defines it as “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Ask employees, Google, brainstorm. Write down your ideas. Write down what you think it is and think it is not. By taking lots of ideas, it’s easier to home in on what’s important and what definition speaks to you. If you don’t find a definition immediately, that’s ok. Take a week in your space and business keeping the idea of sustainability in mind and then come back to the brainstorming session.
If you are a restaurant, your definition might be “Source Local Food.” If you are an office, it might be to create zero-waste. Sustainability can be a set of answers to questions, a single sentence or a set of action items. At Green Buoy Consulting, sustainability means providing customers with environmental and social solutions to improve the longevity and strength of their business.
Once you have a definition you are happy with, share it with customers and employees. Put it on social media and on your website. Post it up so that you have it in mind and use it to guide your next steps.
We’d love to know how you came to your own definition. Let us know if this strategy worked for you, in the comments below.
Curious to learn more? Set up a free 30-minute consult, here.