How to Approach Solving Your Sustainability Goals (Part 1)

Sustainability is no longer a trending organization objective or goal, but an integral part of most core business strategies, however, competencies are still being developed and best practices are just beginning to emerge. It can be challenging to find the best framework to implement sustainable practices while exploring new technologies and continuing to meet business continuity and financial requirements.

Establishing Your Phase

Smart and savvy organizations should implement a systematic decarbonization framework as they develop their initiatives. However, before adopting a decarbonization framework, it is best to understand where your organization is on its energy sustainability journey—with differences based on the company vision, business operations, and financial profiles that ultimately drive sustainability objectives.

What are your objectives? What is the purpose of your goals – short and long-term? How might you be able to structure your mission, so you are successful in meeting your future vision? There are phases that are based on where organizations lie in their sustainability journey- from pure compliance-based objectives to a sustainable organization that drives change not just for itself but for organizations across various verticals.

Understanding where you are in your sustainability phase and where you would like to end up will be important to determine if you should adopt incremental changes (goals) or need a transformational change strategy (systems-based).

Finding Your Framework

Now that you’ve established your phase, it is time to learn what framework would fit your organization best. Below are the steps to a systems-based decarbonization framework to establish your energy sustainability strategy:

  1. Determine the core drivers behind your organization’s emission reduction strategy. Depending on your organization, core drivers could be compliance, regulatory requirements, stakeholder pressure, business continuity, growth opportunities, and core values. These will be key factors when establishing your objectives, as they will give you an idea of your limitations and freedoms.
  2. Develop a GHG emission inventory, outlining financial appetite to achieve objectives, determining organizational boundaries, and determining risk tolerances.
  3. Know your options. Scan the landscape of options to reduce emissions that will be injected into your system that will change the elements.
  4. Understand your emission reduction options. Conduct an opportunity assessment on the landscape of emission-reduction options to determine how it will impact all the elements within the system, both positively and negatively.
  5. Set your decarbonization strategy based on various scenarios as an outcome of your organizational system analysis. Discuss every possible outlook to determine what is best for you and your organization.

What’s Driving Sustainability Goals for Organizations

Personas can differ and can cause challenges when setting and implementing sustainability goals. Organizational personas can range from risk-averse to believing in a core mission driven by sustainability. Risk-averse organizations are most likely acting to avoid future taxes or potential compliance penalties and adopt time-based goals to meet objectives.

  • Customer-Driven Persona: Customer-driven organizations are receiving pressure from stakeholders for sustainability goals and transparent reporting. This requires a systems-based thinking approach to meet objectives as stakeholders are demanding more transparency around sustainable business operations. Systems-based thinking enables organizations to understand business, financial, and stakeholder impacts on the adoption of sustainable practices and decarbonization objectives.
  • Opportunistic Persona: These are organizations that believe that achieving net zero emissions will create a market advantage over their customers.
  • Core Missions Persona: Organizations like this have a vision and mission that support sustainability and environmental stewardship for all its stakeholders and are thought leaders for others to become sustainable leaders.

These three organizational personas have typically gone through a transformation journey with systems-based thinking at the core of creating internal and external sustainable practices. For Opportunistic and Core Missions personas, most likely Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions are being addressed. Scope 3 emissions reductions are still in the initial phases of reporting and addressing, and organizations like this are leading the way.

In Summary

Regardless of the persona an organization has, if a vision has been set, there is a strategic driver to obtain it, and should be considered when developing a decarbonization framework and system. Understanding the core drivers at an organizational level will allow for clear direction when analyzing and determining measures to invest in for achieving sustainability goals as well as gaining internal trust and buy-in amongst stakeholders.

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