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Making Your Sustainability Program Sustainable

Depending on whom you ask in a company, the word “sustainability” can have different meanings. It can be used in relation to finances, long-term programs, or the environment. But when you’re looking at a sustainability – or environmental – program, it has to be set up to endure.

Put simply: your sustainability program has to be sustainable.

Being eco-friendly was once considered trendy, but I believe it is a practice that is here to stay. It’s no longer a “nice to have.” Employees and customers expect it.

Many companies are at different points on their sustainability journey. For those who are just starting, there are some tips that will help ensure that your sustainability program remains sustainable.

  • Top Level Endorsements:  For a program to work, it must have the support of your company’s top leaders. They are the ones who can turn thought into action and make it clear that being an environmental steward is a priority. The leaders can also help create internal partnerships for you with other departments.
  • Low Hanging Fruits: Sometimes you have to crawl before you can walk, and this is often the case with sustainability programs. If you try to tackle everything at once or take on too many large-scale projects, you quickly run out of budget and enthusiasm. Build your program up by starting with small successes that lead to larger projects. One simple project? Set printers to automatically print double-sided.
  • Business Impact: Look at where your company has a large impact and create projects to focus on that area versus a broad approach. For example, if you have a large fleet, look at how you can “green” the fleet. There’s often an up-front cost, but the results are favorable for the bottom line and the environment. Fuel-efficient vehicles and reduced mileage cut down on carbon emissions and out of pocket costs to operate the vehicles.
  • Incentives: Once you’ve started working on larger-scale projects such as generating alternative energy, look for government incentives. Sometimes, you have to choose between multiple locations for a project, and incentives can help you make the decision. And, the dollars saved can be used for additional projects.

These tips can help ensure your sustainability program remains sustainable. And, by showing a good return on investment, you can know that your program is good for the environment and for the business.

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2 thoughts on “Making Your Sustainability Program Sustainable

  1. I understand the sincerity of the article but after nearly a decade in energy & environmental sustainability, I can tell you that if you rely on the above bullet points to make your sustainability program sustainable, you will absolutely fail.

    I believe the article title is misleading. The above is simply very basic starting points to establishing a sustainability program.

    Lastly, you should definitely flesh out what “good return on investment” means. I’m guessing it’s about money in this article, which is missing the mark in the Bruntland’s Commission definition of sustainability.

  2. I think this article has good general advice for implementing or improving upon existing office environmental programs. Details on how to utilize the stated points can vary between business model, size, and company culture.

    I work in one smaller office of several company offices. Though we have company support, as the Green lead in the office I’m the one who makes decisions to create/implement programs that fit our needs and abilities. In example, we started ordering office supplies in bulk from http://www.reliable.com reducing shipping related fuel emissions and purchased regular plates and cups for employees to use instead of paper plates and plastic utensils. They are examples of small adjustments, but make sense for our office of 30.

    At the end of the day, it’s about practical solutions that make sense for the business while also reducing environmental impact and educating people.

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