Making your sustainability programme a success

Posted in Sustainability on 14 March 2019 By Naomi Allen, Head of Sustainability

Sustainability strategies can have a transformative impact on organisations that adopt them. Here, Emperor’s new Head of Sustainability introduces five vital components to consider when introducing a new sustainability programme.

As well as cost savings and a reduction in environmental footprint, the benefits of a good sustainability programme can include increased productivity, lower staff turnover, improved reputation, greater business resilience and an increase in innovation.

However, evidence suggests that most sustainability programmes will fail to meet their objectives. A Bain & Company, Inc. report1 published in 2017 found that only 2% of corporate sustainability programs achieve or exceed their aims, compared to 12% of other corporate transformation programmes.

From our experience, there are five key factors that must be taken into account when implementing a successful sustainability programme:

 1. Internal buy-in

Employees should have a say in the decisions that impact them. If they are excluded, the strategies you are trying to implement will struggle to gain traction.

Senior managers and key decision makers need to be consulted as early as possible, as they can make or break a programme.

 Equally, the colleagues you are trying to influence should feel included . A top down approach is a risky one; consulting with employees, through holding workshops or focus groups for example, is key to successfully engaging with them.

2. Balancing priorities

Sustainability programmes must align with colleagues’ priorities, ideally integrating with their existing KPIs, as sustainability strategies could compete with them. Coordinating with existing organisational goals and employees’ existing responsibilities will be the key to success.

3. Measurement

Organisations should monitor, measure and be accountable for their actions. As such, it is important to have clear goals and metrics. Establishing a baseline of the current situation is crucial in developing a robust programme that can measure and assess its effectiveness. Measurement is also key in order to demonstrate the value of your sustainability programme to investors and other key stakeholders within the business.

4. Communication support, education and training

Effective internal communication is an important part of any sustainability programme, whether to avoid a clash with organisational crunch points, or align the programme with live focus areas. Internal messaging is often a crowded space with multiple initiatives competing for the same audience. Standing out is crucial to ensure people remember key messages.

Often sustainability programmes do not adequately support the stakeholders, or influencers, they are trying to work with or relying on. Support can come in many forms,  such as training, education or support networks. Training, in particular is often undervalued, and staff need to be fully trained and equipped to use new technology or familiarise themselves with new processes.

5. Materiality

Decision makers must identify sustainability topics that are relevant to the business. If a company tries to implement a strategy that does not relate to their core purpose, it will struggle.

The first step of creating any sustainability strategy is to carry out a materiality exercise where you determine what are the most relevant and significant issues for your business to be focusing on right now.

Get in touch with us to talk about your sustainability journey and how we can support you at [email protected].


  1. Bain & Company, Inc. report: Achieving Breakthrough Results in Sustainability



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