Sustainability 101: Creating Your Strategic Plan

Yesterday I read an article that called out corporate social responsibility (CSR) as the new “Brand Content.” We are all aware of the increased marketing push around CSR activities. But, how do you make sure those marketing claims are legit and reflect what your organization is actually achieving? And, more importantly, how do you keep your organization on track when implementing sustainability?
Creating a Strategic Plan
Creating and following a strategic sustainability action plan provides your organization with a road map.
Your vision, assessment, and goals are the backbone for developing a plan to move you forward and keep you on track (For more detailed information on how to accomplish these three key steps refer back to my previous posts!). A strategic plan helps you document, track, and monitor the different sustainability initiatives rolled out in a fiscal year and assists you in communicating to and getting buy-in from your staff. As I’ve mentioned over and over again, metrics and verification not only allow you to track your sustainability progress, they also support your marketing claims.

The four steps to a plan are:
1. Prioritize your goals.
Prioritization is essential for a strategic plan because it helps you develop your flow and narrow your focus. A long list of goals may be overwhelming; therefore, breaking down the list into smaller pieces gives momentum to the plan.
Take your goals table and prioritize the goals in your six-month column first. Is there a logical order for accomplishing the goals? For instance, will achieving one goal help you accomplish another goal faster?
After you prioritize your six-month goals, start on your one- to three-year goals. It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet to start tracking your goals and how you will accomplish them.
2. Develop strategies to achieve your goals.
The key in developing strategies to achieve your goals is to know how to measure progress. That is, for each goal, determine the method in which you will know if you are on track with your targets. For example, if you have a goal to educate all employees on your recycling system, how will you determine you have succeeded? Whatever method of measurement you choose, you need to define it from the beginning.
Another aspect to consider when determining your strategies is to think about how you will involve your staff in the implementation process. This is crucial to the success of your initiatives. The more your employees feel included and valued throughout the process, the easier you will accomplish your goals.
3. Create a timeline for achieving your goals.
Developing a timeline can be as simple as filling in a due date, as outlined in the previous figure, or you can use a project management program to produce a chart. Whatever method you use, it is important to factor in preparation time, meeting time, communication time, follow-up time, and the actual time it takes to work on the item. It is always better to overestimate than underestimate.
If multiple people will be working on one strategy, make it clear who is responsible for what component of the task and how much time he anticipates it will take.
4. Determine roles and responsibilities.
When determining roles and responsibility, encourage people to volunteer for what excites or intrigues them. This will make for a smoother progression and help everyone remain accountable for his or her tasks.
That is all for this week! Next week we will focus on using assessments to determine how your business impacts the environment.
I want to add that this chapter is an excerpt from chapter 3 of my book, The complete Idiot’s Guide to Greening Your Business. This chapter was written in collaboration with Miriam Karell of Three Point Vision.

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.

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