This image represents the beginning of a journey to the destination.This picture is Getting Started with Things to Go.

Keys To Getting The Program Started

Despite the benefits for both a business and the planet, getting a full-fledged sustainability program approved is an uphill battle. According to a report from Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), just 16 percent of executives reported sustainability as being a built-in business function. From the same pool of participants, 50 percent believed that sustainability was “fairly-well” implemented into the business, as opposed to “extremely well” — the ideal benchmark.

The failure of many sustainability programs stems from a lack of structure and commitment to the plan at-hand. To build a strong foundation, it’s crucial to get the right people on-board. Doing so requires a multi-step process, as noted by the Green Business Bureau:

Crafting A Mission Statement 

Before lining up support from the employees, it’s important to clearly outline the importance of the cause. A strong mission statement for a sustainability plan includes the following criteria: a reasonable long-term plan that matches the budget and size of the facility, and benefits that extend beyond bottom-line gains. Even if a program saves money in the long run, it will be difficult to garner support if the social and environmental benefits aren’t specifically outlined. 

Building A Support Team

Successfully implementing a program is more likely with the support of a team. While co-workers may critique some ideas, suggestions can force the team leader to circle back on potential flaws. Additionally, getting coworkers and colleagues involved makes them feel as if they are a part of something significant. According to a report from Ceres, just six percent of sustainability programs are implemented into company-wide engagement. 

Managers should develop a team of trustworthy colleagues and meet routinely with them to discuss the most important facility needs and potential challenges. By delegating different members to different focuses of a plan — such as air quality, waste management, water conservation, etc. — each member is dialed into their role and will take more pride in their responsibilities.  

Start With Easy Benchmarks 

With the right team in place, the Green Business Bureau recommends targeting easier objectives to get the ball rolling and morale in the right place. Examples of first steps include reminders to turn off lights in offices, labeling recycling bins, and promoting new practices via company announcements or reward incentives.  

Building Up To Game Changers 

Once a few of the easier boxes have been checked, the larger objectives can be set into motion. Examples include re-evaluating cleaning chemical inventories, installing or upgrading HVAC systems to improve ventilation and air quality, and achieving zero waste as a facility — which depending on one’s jurisdiction can be defined as “Eliminating all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health” by the EPA. Is the latter a lofty goal? Most certainly, but so is improving the planet. The most important thing is to not get discouraged early on and have patience with those who could be resistant to change

previous page of this article:
What Should a Sustainability Program Target?