The first step in developing a sustainability strategy that means something


An increasing number of organisations are realising the importance of measuring environmental and social impacts of their business.


Maybe you are, too? Maybe you have already begun the process by conducting a carbon audit? If so, has this been useful to you? Or do you now have a bunch of numbers that you aren’t sure what to do with?


Before you approach the task of measuring your impacts, it’s important to take time to understand what is relevant to your organisation so that the indicators you choose to measure are clearly integrated into your sustainability strategy. The results of a carbon audit will give an organisation a number of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions that they release each year. Many organisations are given this figure after paying an auditor thousands of dollars, but are left thinking ‘so what?’ or ‘what next?’ because the audit results are irrelevant to the day-to-day operations of the company.



There’s more to sustainability than carbon measurement


If you want to be able to use your measurements in a meaningful way, it’s important to first identify your organisation’s material issues. These are the issues that are most relevant to your organisation, and most important to your stakeholders. The numbers that result from measuring a set of indicators can help you to tell a story in a common language, but they must mean something tangible to your business and your audience.


Putting some time into clearly defining your sustainability vision and goals will help you to better communicate the positive impacts from your work.



What does your company look like in the future?


If you don’t have a sustainability vision, start with your company vision. Are there elements of sustainability already suggested in your company vision, like looking after your people or creating a healthier planet?


If your sustainability vision isn’t obvious, try looking a little deeper by brainstorming with your colleagues. If efficiency is core to your business, then reduction of product waste could be a key area in your sustainability vision.



What do you want to be able to tell your stakeholders?


Think about why you are measuring your impacts. Talk to your stakeholders – your employees, investors, suppliers, the communities that you operate within – to find out what is important to them about the way the business operates. Once you know where the gaps are you will be better placed to devise the goals that will help your organisation operate more efficiently and earn a reputation for caring about environmental and social impacts.


Starting from the ground up by identifying your longer-term goals will make it easier to decide what you want to measure at the outset. This will also increase the likelihood that proper measuring processes are put in place, making data collection much easier in the long term.


For example, if one of your goals is to improve the wellbeing of our workers in our factories and their families, you can begin by measuring the reduction in work related injuries, the education levels of children of factory workers, general health indicators of factory workers compared to the community, and so on. Over time this information will contribute to a better understanding of your organisation’s impact on its people, and this will mean a lot more to your stakeholders than a bunch of numbers.




Impact Sustainability’s 10 Steps to Sustainability program is an end-to-end system for developing and implementing a sustainability strategy. We also provide a range of supporting services, including sustainability strategy workshops and measurement solutions. We look forward to speaking with you soon.