The literature on CSR and Sustainability topics is diverse, vibrant and a little complex. I think it is good that so many of us are talking about CSR Sustainability issues, challenges and experiences and churning out posts on our blogs. And while it is great to keep writing, to keep soliciting opinions, to keep debating, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t sometimes stop and make it simpler, so that a novice can get what we are trying to say and to be able to use that knowledge.
I have already talked about my list of CSR superstars, those who are making CSR knowledge much more accessible and easy to digest, and through this post I am taking my love of the “simple yet profound” one step further and creating a list of sustainability must dos. The list is inspired and somewhat fashioned after Tom Peters’ fantastic E-book, which by the way if you are a manager or a business owner you should download, read and live by.
So without further ado, here is my top 50 sustainability have yous:
1) Have you ensured that the company leadership has full commitment to sustainability and understands what it entails?
2) Have you ensured that everyone in the company knows about the sustainability agenda and the direction the company intends to take? Do they even know there is a sustainability agenda?
3) Have you set the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will measure how well you are doing in meeting your sustainability targets?
4) Have you measured the KPIs set earlier at several points during the project?
5) Have you reassessed the KPIs if it was found that they don’t accurately reflect the direction your sustainability programs are taking?
6) Have you made sure that everyone in the company and not just the strategy team had a say in developing the sustainability strategy?
7) Have you openly talked about the challenges that you foresee in making your sustainability strategy work?
8) Have you decided the long term stance of the company with respect to sustainability? i.e. have you made sure that your sustainability actions and decisions are not short term but have the potential to develop and evolve as time passes?
9) Have you done a sensitivity analysis that helps clarify your sustainability vision and makes it easy to deal with unpleasant surprises?
10) Have you talked to your team about the sustainability direction that the company intends to take?
11) Have you ensured that the proposed program will address a Real issue and is not just a feel good exercise?
12) Have you looked at the proposed sustainability initiative in isolation (impact, effectiveness and efficiency) AND within the context of the whole company (business benefits, societal benefits and brand recognition)?
13) Have you made sure that your proposed sustainability program has the potential to grow into something bigger or can lead to other, more advanced programs? i.e. the program is not just a standalone blip on the graph?
14) Have you openly and without making any excuses talked about where you fell short in your commitments with respect to sustainability?
15) Have you celebrated your sustainability milestones?
16) Have you incorporated sustainability elements into the overall company strategy or aligned the sustainability strategy with the company strategy?
17) Have you considered joining hands with competitors when it comes to addressing industry specific sustainability issues?
18) Have you given enough reasons to your employees to feel proud of working with the company so that they can work as brand ambassadors?
19) Have you worked with other smaller companies in the country or the industry to help them achieve their sustainability targets? This could be in form of knowledge sharing or technical support?
20) Have you encouraged your employees to take sustainability beyond the office boundary? i.e. have you made it easy or rewarding for them to institute small changes in their lives that are sustainable?
21) Have you considered investing in products that are revolutionary, yet sustainable, instead of just making design modifications in the existing ones?
22) Have you considered the ancillary environmental costs of the products or service, beyond the regular production, packaging and disposal costs?
23) Have you taken any steps to involve your suppliers into your sustainability agenda?
24) Have you considered the health and safety of your business place including that of suppliers, visitors, on-site contractors and employees?
25) Have you made sure that your green efforts don’t start and finish with three recycling cans marked paper, glass and metal?
26) Have you taken any steps to look at alternate sources of energy either by investing in it or using it for your operations?
27) Have you ensured that you provide full information about ingredients, packaging, and practices on your website? Is the information easy for the average consumer to find?
28) Have you obtained any third part quality/ safety certifications for your products or facilities?
29) Have you designed a solid risk management and anti-corruption function? How often do you revisit it to take into account the new risks facing the business and the society?
30) Have u introduced any programs in the company that rewards responsible behavior in employees such as volunteering or contribution to social causes?
31) Have you developed and instituted a solid whistle blowing mechanism in the company?
32) Have you taken any steps to measure the impact of your activities on the surrounding communities?
33) Have you allocated a specific budget for CSR activities?
34) Have you defined roles for CSR or do you have a CSR governance structure in place?
35) Have you communicated the sustainability progress of your company through an externally assured sustainability report?
36) Have you developed an internal code of conduct or set of values that all employees live by?
37) Have you communicated the company values and social ethics to all stakeholders?
38) Have you determined the materiality for your CSR sustainability issues? i.e. have you defined a process to determine what issues warrant a response on part of the company?
39) Have you identified the carbon footprint of your facilities and have you taken any steps to lower or offset the same?
40) Have you ensured that your sustainability strategy has a specific focus on new, low-carbon goods and services, and new low-carbon markets?
41) Have you ensured that your strategy has a strong emphasis on two-way dialogue with stakeholders to provide insights into CSR direction and/ or co-create more sustainable products and services?
42) Have you mapped out biodiversity related risks and opportunities?
43) Have you put in place a system that looks for and continuously develops greener solutions for all aspects of business?
44) Have you lobbied with government agencies or regulators to regulate sustainable actions in your industry that you believe are important and feasible?
45) Have you considered offering trainings leading to employment for the community?
46) Do you have a community advisory committee that includes representatives from all segments of the society?
47) Have you put in place a system to take feedback from the customers, employees and suppliers on business and sustainability performance?
48) Have you managed to close the feedback loop by keeping them informed about the progress and resolution of their concerns?
49) Have you instituted a quality management system relevant to the industry?
50) Have you done sectoral or regional benchmarking for sustainability initiatives to gauge your performance against other players?
How to use this List:
If you are an aspiring CSR expert, use this list as the starting point of areas you need to know more about. Perhaps you could start off by tackling 10 points per week. Dig up research, devour blog posts, and pull apart sustainability reports, do whatever it takes to know all you can about these 10 points. Do this for five weeks and you will be far ahead of many people in the field.
If you work for a company contemplating the leap, start by using this list as an initial assessment of your company. This is like an organizational preparedness test that will tell you where you stand with respect to sustainability issues. You can then go on to use this list as a check list of your sustainability achievements.
Please leave a comment below if you find these useful or if you believe I missed out on any points. This list is by no means comprehensive and I would love to have your feedback on what are some of the other must have yous.
Photo Credit: bernat… via Flicker Creative Commons