Sustainability Planning for Business Owners

Sustainability Planning for Business OwnersSustainability Planning 101 for Business Owners

Wise businesses are now weaving environmental sustainability into their long-term strategies, and they’re doing it by writing comprehensive sustainability plans. The point: to identify key areas of eco-friendly opportunity and give your business a roadmap of how to maximize of those opportunities.

Needless to say, a sustainability plan requires more than just quickly pounding out some inspirational goals on computer. Here are some key steps to getting the most out of sustainability planning:

1. Assess the baseline. Before a business can figure out where it needs to go, it needs to know where it is. This involves doing a thorough analysis of its environmental footprint, from transportation and waste habits to pollution to energy and water use. The assessment should include real numbers: How much trash (in pounds) does the business produce each year? How much currently gets recycled and what waste does and what doesn’t? How much water does the business use each year? How many miles do employees drive and how much does that cost you? Some of this information can be found with a thorough examination of company and employee practices; others may require a professional audit or consultant.

2. Identify best opportunities. Once you have a complete snapshot of your business’s environmental toll, you should more easily be able to identify areas for improvement. This can also require some research about alternatives to your current practices. You might find, for instance, that you aren’t recycling certain items that can be recycled. Or you might get an energy audit and find that you have many opportunities to reduce your gas or electricity use.

3. Plan implementation steps. Once you have your broad goals, you need to formalize how you will achieve those goals and the necessary steps to getting there. If you decide, say, to recycle more of your business’s paper waste, how will you ensure that happens? Why is more paper not currently recycled? Perhaps you purchase separate containers specifically for paper waste or put up signs reminding yourself or employees to put paper in the recycle bins. Even further, you might commit to purchasing recycled paper products.

4. Set deadlines. Give your plan a framework by assigning a deadline by which each implementation step will occur. If the company is bigger, the plan should also indicate who is in charge of pursuing each step.

5. Keep revisiting it. Anyone who’s written a business plan knows the most valuable ones are the ones that keep evolving and are continually revised and revisited. Don’t let your sustainability plan gather dust. Keep it handy and relevant by reviewing it regularly and ensuring you’re meeting the goals you set out. If you’re not achieving them, revise the plan but figure out what’s gone awry.


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

14 Reactions
  1. The last step, revisiting your plan, is an important one as the market you operate in and your own ideas for capitalizing on opportunities are sure to evolve over time.

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