Here’s a Simple Sustainability Checklist to Get You Started
Sustainability checklists help you identify your focus areas so you can get started and stay on track with your sustainability goals.
As an entrepreneur, solving tough challenges is part of your daily agenda. Action planning, developing new strategies, and resolving internal issues are just some of the million tasks that keep your business running. But how do you keep up when sustainability is thrown into the mix?
Sustainability as a business imperative
In recent years, climate change sparked a transformation in business strategy. Product lifecycles, GHG emissions and carbon footprint became points of discussion in board rooms and made their way in strategic planning sessions. Sustainability emerged as the new normal in doing business. Conserving resources is not just about minimizing production costs. Rather, it is about looking at the impact of your entire business system on your employees, the society, and more importantly, the environment.
Many business leaders believe sustainability is critical to future success. Only 26% of over 1,000 CEOs worldwide cited “no clear link to business value” as a barrier to sustainability – according to a 2019 survey by the United Nations Global Compact Organization and Accenture Strategy. In the same survey, 48% of the CEOs disclosed that they are already implementing sustainability into their operations. Clearly, there is genuine interest and willingness to integrate sustainable practices among business leaders. However, some leaders are still finding sustainability as a relatively new and vague concept.
If this is you, don’t fret…
We’re here to help.
This guide is created for entrepreneurs who want to jumpstart their transition to a sustainable business. We have created a simple checklist that can help you see your focus areas as you develop your company’s sustainability program. You don’t need to resort to complex or expensive assessment tools to get started. If you follow the strategies we have outlined here, you’ll be on your way to implementing the best practices in no time.
But first, let’s explore sustainability audits.
What is a sustainability audit?
At its core, a sustainability audit is a tool that gives you an overview of the current practices in your company which you can compare with the best sustainability practices within your industry. If you’re just starting out, it is a systematic way of doing your baseline assessment so you can set your sustainability targets. Over time, doing audits keep you aligned and on-track with your goals.
What does a sustainability audit consist of?
The concept of business sustainability revolves around the repeatability of your business activities for the indefinite future in line with these three main aspects:
Economic: the activity continues to contribute to the economic well-being of its host community; it does not just begin and end because of bad business practice
Environmental: the activity causes minimal damage to the immediate environment (soil, waste, flora, fauna, etc.)
Social and cultural: the activity does not harm but revitalizes the culture or social structure of the host community
With these in mind, the sustainability audit criteria can be developed under three major themes:
Effective sustainability planning
Under this theme, we check if your company has a sustainable management system in place such as the existence of an environmental or sustainability policy. Proof of compliance monitoring with environmental regulations, and communication of company sustainability initiatives to your staff also fall into this category. Examples of performance criteria could include legal compliance and staff engagement.
Sample guide questions:
Does the business have an environmental policy?
Are your staff aware of the environmental policy?
Do you have a sustainable audit team?
Maximize social and economic benefits for the local community
Under this theme, we evaluate how your business supports the economy of your host community through job generation or creating enabling environments for local product patronizing. Sample performance criteria include prioritizing local employment, local purchasing, development of livelihood programs for the community.
Sample guide questions:
Do you hire people locally?
Is there training and upward mobility for lower-level employees?
Do you source your raw materials locally?
Reduce negative impacts on the environment
Under this theme, we look at how your business reduces its overall impact on the environment. Use of renewable energy sources, recycling initiatives, and composting belong in this category. Paying close attention to the life cycle of your products and services can uncover areas where you can minimize your environmental impact. Examples of performance criteria include energy conservation measures implemented, waste generation, carbon footprint and water consumption.
Sample guide questions:
Do you monitor your electricity, water, and fuel consumption?
Do you reduce consumption of disposable materials?
Do you have a wastewater processing system in place
Putting all these together, your sustainability audit template will look like this:
Filling out this checklist will give you a rough idea about your current sustainability performance. The items marked as “No” are your focus areas. As you go through the list and develop your company’s sustainability program, you will find that some items will be harder to implement than the rest. In this case, we highly recommend categorizing your action plans into short-term goals, medium-term goals, and long-term goals.
A sustainability audit checklist is a simple yet very useful tool that can help you see where you are in terms of meeting your sustainability objectives. With a checklist, you will be guided in examining your own performance relative to best practices in your sector and among more advanced organizations. The most important thing with meeting your sustainability goals is to start somewhere then build on your baseline practices as you move along.