By Devon Bertram
As more and more organizations are recognizing the value and need to consider sustainability as part of good business, new assessment and tracking tools are being developed to help them evaluate and measure their sustainability efforts and performance. Tackling sustainability can be an overwhelming task, and it can be difficult to know how and where to start.
Two new tools featured at this year’s International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) conference, held last month in Denver, were S-CORE from ISSP and the Future-Fit Business Benchmark from 3-D Investment Foundation and The Natural Step Canada.
S-CORE (Sustainability – Competency, Opportunity, Reporting and Evaluation) is a Web-based tool used to assess where and how sustainability lies within an organization, while also providing insight into opportunities based on identified sustainability goals. S-CORE is not limited to a certain business type or size, and includes almost 100 practices across various sectors that span all levels and stages of sustainability implementation.
This tool can be valuable for guiding internal decision-making and supporting the development or advancement of an organization’s sustainability plan by generating new ideas, goals and priorities, assigning responsible parties, and tracking various stages of benchmarking for each practice. Once the assessment has been completed by an organization, a comprehensive report includes a gap analysis, inventory of current practices, opportunities and recommendations, resources, and an action plan.
This licensed assessment tool has been used by a range of organizations including Nike, the city of Santa Monica, Alaska Airlines, Northeast Utilities (Connecticut Light & Power) and Dartmouth College. While S-CORE was originally developed by AXIS Performance Advisors, the International Sustainable Development Foundation and the Zero-Waste Alliance, it was turned over to ISSP this year to broaden its reach and usability.
Future-Fit Business Benchmark
The Future-Fit Business Benchmark is a collaborative, science-based and open-source initiative focused on defining a business fit for the future – “one that will flourish while adding to the wellbeing of society as a whole.” The tool helps individuals quantify how actions can contribute to this vision by presenting performance criteria defined by 28 social and environmental goals and metrics within nine areas (physical resources, products and services, operational waste, land, employees, communities, customers, boards and owners, and supply chain). The tool was created with input from over 100 experts, and the first draft was released for public comment last month.
The Benchmark aims to define a fully sustainable business model, and examines what business can be within both a healthy planet and a healthy society. The tool can be used by a range of stakeholders – whether an employee at a company, a rater, an investor, a consultant, a student or a policy maker – and is created with the intention to identify the gap between the business practices of today and the needs of the future.
Currently, each of the 11 environmental and 17 social goals is presented with a consistent format that includes the context to which the goal applies, business benefits, issues mitigated, science-based design constraints, examples of companies that are succeeding in this goal, and a place for users to provide feedback. The next step in the Future-Fit tool is to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) to support businesses in measuring and managing their progress within each of these goals. Public reactions and help from experts is being solicited to support this development effort, as well as to assist in refining each of the Future-Fit goals based on the feedback received.
Overall, these internal tools respond to the increasing need for resources that can support organizations trying to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day operations and broader strategic goals. While S-CORE is more of a qualitative evaluation and Future-Fit is based mostly on metrics, both tools provide a framework for internal evaluation, goal-setting, measurement and tracking. Such internal tools can hopefully enable organizations to more easily integrate and communicate sustainability efforts across departments and management — and perhaps support smoother and easier reporting efforts. The more accessible we can make sustainability, the more we’ll see it in practice. S-CORE and Future-Fit seem to be on the path to helping make this happen.
Devon Bertram is a Sustainability Manager with YR&G, a firm with offices in Denver, New York, and Chicago that provides technical and strategic sustainability consulting for buildings, communities, and corporations around the country and internationally.