Visioning Your Sustainable Business Reality

This is the second in a series of posts about incorporating sustainability into your business model by sustainability expert Heather Gadonniex. Stay tuned for weekly, step-by-step tips on how you can Modernize Business Through Sustainable Strategy™.
Click here to read #1
In the last post, I covered a basic understanding of what sustainability means, why it is important and what changes are arising in the marketplace. Now it is time to determine how you want to integrate these concepts into your business. The first step in executing any sustainability initiative or program is to determine where you want to go by creating your sustainability vision and defining your goals. Just like any mission statement, your sustainability vision (also referred to as a sustainability mission or sustainability positioning statement) serves as a compass for your organization.
In this post, we will focus on sustainability visioning and creating a sustainability positioning statement for your organization. In next week’s post I will circle back around to goal creation. To create your sustainability vision, follow the following steps:

* Seek Outside Facilitation
While this is not a necessity, companies often benefit from seeking leadership from an outside facilitator. Working with someone who has a background in sustainability helps you create realistic, achievable goals. If you are not working with an outside facilitator, be sure that someone on your team has sustainability experience. It also helps assign a note taker to capture everyone’s input.
* Gather a Team from Your Business
A shared vision helps everyone in an organization understand how he or she individually and collectively contributes to the success of that company. This can greatly impact the effectiveness of external communication to clients and customers by creating a coherent and congruent message.
To increase stakeholder engagement, gather a team that represents different levels and departments in your organization, which will help you create a message that will resonate with the majority of your employees. This will help you elicit buy in from all employees – especially those who were not involved in developing your company’s sustainability vision – when rolling out your sustainability program.
Just last week my colleague Prudence and I conducted a visioning session for a new client, Marazzi USA. After our meeting, everyone realized the value of bringing in stakeholders from various departments into the room. Now, their entire team is excited about moving forward with incorporating sustainability into their organization and engaging all employees in the process.
* Determine What Sustainability Means to Your Business
Sustainability is a value-based term. No definition can possibly encompass all cultures, nationalities, worldviews, races, businesses, and so on. Really drill down to the core meaning of sustainability, and how that relates to your business, for each stakeholder participating in the visioning process.
Below are a few of the questions we ask clients when working with them to map out their sustainability vision.
1. Where would you like your organization to be in five years?
2. How will your organization relate to the natural environment, stakeholders (community, employees and shareholders), and other businesses?
3. What do you want your clients to say about your organization?
After all involved participants have a chance to voice and discuss their opinions, use information gathered during the session to create your organizations sustainability vision. Some companies use this as their external sustainability positioning statement and some choose to craft an additional external statement. Each organization is different. The key component … be sure your external messaging reflects your internal action. This will build brand credibility and protect you from greenwashing.

Heather Gadonniex, LEED AP, is the co-founder of Green it Group, a sustainability strategy firm that focuses on helping organizations develop, measure, manage and market their sustainability initiatives. Ms. Gadonniex is also the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Greening Your Business, published by Alpha Books (with Trish Riley). Contact Heather at, or visit the Green it Group website.

Leave a Reply