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50 Sustainability Strategies

        posted by , April 09, 2013

Sustainability is about aligning the stars.

If your organization makes profits at the expense of people and the environment — few objective observers would consider that a success. Increasingly such behavior will lead to penalties, regulations, poor employee engagement, deteriorating customer relationships, reputation decline and loss of partners.

Alternatively, an environmental project that fails to consider the livelihoods and culture of local people also fails to align the stars.

Aligning the stars isn't always easy. The following sustainability strategies can be used as building blocks of a balanced sustainability program that prioritizes people, planet and profit.


1. Energy Efficiency

An improved data center design that uses less power for cooling.


2. Renewable Energy

An industrial park powered by solar electricity.


3. Conserving Resources

An industrial process is redesigned to consume less water.


4. Reducing Consumption

A paperless business.


5. Waste Reduction

More efficient manufacturing processes that use less materials. For example, molding materials in a required pattern instead of molding rectangles and cutting patterns.


6. Emissions Reduction

Reduce business travel with video conferencing tools.


7. Carbon Neutrality

Designing your business activities and processes to have a net-zero carbon emissions footprint. For example, investing in solar electricity and selling what you don't need to back to the grid can result in a neutral carbon footprint.


8. Carbon Offset

Purchasing carbon offsets helps you to reduce your carbon footprint by supporting projects that reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.


9. Toxic Substance Reduction

Removing toxic substances from your products and processes (replacing them with safer alternatives). In Korea, rice husks are commonly used to package goods. The rice husks are then used as material to make bricks.


10. Sustainable Materials

Using materials in your products and processes that are sustainable. For example, using organic beetroot juice to color food.


11. Sustainable Transport

Paying public transportation fees for employees. Employees who walk or bicycle to work receive special incentives.


12. Durable Products

Designing a bicycle that lasts 5 years instead of 2 years.


13. Fixable Products

Designing products with component parts that can be swapped by customers to repair them. When your refrigerator breaks down — the next day you receive a package with a new component that you can install yourself.


14. Reusable Products

A refrigerator with standard component parts that can be reused when a unit is decommissioned.


15. Biodegradable Materials

Packaging that quickly turns into water and other harmless materials when exposed to the elements (e.g. sun, rain, air).


16. Recycling

An electronics manufacturer that offers a recycling program for its devices.


17. Upcycling

An industrial cycle that takes the waste from one process as the materials for another process. For example, a clothing manufacturer that uses fabric scraps to make furniture.


18. Sustainable Procurement

Ensuring that your purchases are sustainable.


19. Secondhand Sourcing

Purchasing secondhand office furniture.


20. Sustainable Supply Chain

A grocery chain switches to rail transport for long-haul shipments. Using rail to transport goods can have a significant energy and emissions advantage over trucking.


21. Sustainable Architecture

An office building that uses passive solar techniques for lighting and temperature control.


22. Sustainable Landscaping

An office building with a rooftop garden uses less energy for temperature control.


23. Biodiversity

A forestry project allows land to return back to its natural state and then harvests wood at a sustainable pace.


24. Sustainable Agriculture

A farm that uses principles of ecology to control pests and fertilize soil. For example, allowing natural predators to control pests.


25. Polyculture

A farm switches to mixed crops to reduce pests and improve soil conditions naturally.


26. Process Efficiency

Continuous improvement of a manufacturing process reduces energy consumption by 30%.


27. Social Responsibility

A hotel uses sustainable local produce and products to stimulate the local economy and integrate with the local culture. For example, its gift shop sells local art and crafts in place of imported plastic trinkets.


28. Community Engagement & Feedback

A hotel engages the local community about their concerns that its customers are interfering with local fishing practices. A solution is reached that allows mixed-use of the beach in front of the hotel.


29. Employee Engagement & Feedback

An investment bank engages employees to form sustainability strategies.


30. Think Globally, Act Locally

A global consumer products manufacturer empowers employees to create local sustainability initiatives. Successful local programs are scaled to the entire firm where possible.


31. Workplace Safety

An electronics manufacturer implements a workplace health and safety program across its entire supply chain.


32. Supporting Employee Social Responsibility Initiatives

An investment bank develops a program that helps employees to identify and seek funding for social responsibility initiatives. Employees develop a project to avert preventable blindness amongst poor youth in a developing nation.


33. Charitable Donations

A clothing retailer supports employee volunteerism with paid time off and matches employee contributions to charitable causes.


34. Eco-industrial Park

An industrial park that seeks sustainability synergies between firms. For example, firms can cooperate to feed the waste from one process as an input material for another process.


35. Sustainable Engineering

A data center that feeds heat from servers to a greenhouse.


36. Sustainable Proximity

A global consumer goods manufacturer diversifies it's manufacturing operations to produce goods closer to the end customer.


37. Natural Resource Management

Environmental governance of resources such as land, water, soil and plants. For example, a hotel runs a governance program for its lands with the goal of maximizing sustainable biodiversity.


38. Nature Resource Restoration

An organization helps local farmers reclaim recently desertified land to fight extreme poverty and restore environmentally sustainable practices.


39. Urban Farms

A company uses its office rooftops to grow organic foods for local hunger programs. Rooftop gardens reduce urban heat islands, clean the air and reduce the energy required to control the temperature of a building.


40. Risk Management

Risk management is a key discipline for sustainability. An aerospace company reduces the risk of an environmental accident. A mining operation manages the risk that operations pose to biodiversity.


41. Product Safety

A product is designed to be safe, healthy and environmentally friendly.


42. Quality Products

Quality is the value of your products. Quality is often linked to sustainability goals. For example, product returns can have a high environmental impact — you manufacture a product, ship it to a customer and the customer ships it back. Improving product quality can reduce your environmental footprint.


43. Environmental And Social Themed Investing

Ensuring that your investments align with your sustainability goals. Several frameworks are available to achieve this. For example, the United Nation's Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI).


44. Ethics and Accountability

A global consumer goods manufacturing firm establishes a set of ethics that prioritize people, planet, profits. Executive management and employees sign pledges to these ethics.


45. Chief Green Officer

An investment bank creates an executive management function with clear responsibilities and authority to establish a culture of sustainability.


46. Sustainable Organizational Culture

A grocery chain establishes a corporate culture that prioritizes sustainability in the principles, norms, habits, symbols and mission of its organization.


47. Product Certification

Certifying your products with sustainability related standards such as Organic certification for food products.


48. Sustainability Standards

Implementation of sustainability standards such as the ISO 14000 family of environmental standards.


49. Triple Bottom Line (TBL)

Triple Bottom Line is an accounting standard that measures three concurrent factors — people, planet, profit.


50. Measure & Communicate Progress

Ensure that the performance goals of everyone in your organization have measurable objectives for sustainability. Communicate your progress to investors, employees and customers. Celebrate sustainability victories.


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