Establish Vision and Obtain Commitments

Step 1

Integrating sustainability into regular business operations and employee behavior requires a high level of commitment from everyone in the organization. Everyone from staff to executives to external stakeholders such as subcontractors and suppliers must participate. Companies that have been successful in greening their operations frequently cite visioning and goal-setting as the most important steps in achieving buy-in and strategically prioritizing diverse efforts.

The best sustainability goals are those that tie into an organization’s overall strategic vision and culture. Rather than beginning with numeric targets such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage, it can be more effective to first consider the organization’s mission. What products and services does the organization hope to provide in the future and how can sustainability play a role in providing them? What does your commitment say about your company? Strive to establish an overall vision for the “brand” of your company’s sustainability efforts. Once this is established, draw on the vision in everything you do; from conversations with potential clients to ongoing communications with your employees.

Establishing your organization’s vision and obtaining a commitment from leadership is an important first step in the sustainability process; this step lays the groundwork for everything that comes after, and creates a foundation of support and guidance from the top-down. Because this is a top-down process, the first step involves primarily organization leadership. It’s important to include individuals in your organization that are responsible for strategic direction and decisions. Depending on your organization size and structure this could include an executive council, directors, or managers.

Create your Vision by Obtaining Commitments: Task by Task

  • Create a charter document.
  • Formally identify a leadership-level sustainability champion.
  • Identify ideal participants or attributes to include on the Green Team.
  • Communicate the value of your vision to stakeholders including staff, customers and investors, and challenge them to participate.

Tools and Considerations

  • Conduct a survey of leadership to gather input on why sustainability is important to the organization.
  • Create a skills/expertise checklist before identifying Green Team members.
  • Make a big deal out of the commitment.