For many companies, sustainability efforts are no longer just about compliance—they’re an essential component of the company’s overall business strategy, reputation, and brand. Why? Because sustainability programs not only improve the environment, but also offer a competitive advantage.
In fact, 66% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, according to the 2015 Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report. In addition, 45% of respondents said a company’s commitment to the environment has the power to sway product purchases.
Developing a sustainability strategy will allow you to blend your sustainability goals into your overall business strategy. Below is a simple, but effective process for creating and implementing a sustainability strategy that drives real business value.
Step 1: Determine your sustainability priorities
Tech companies most effective at pursuing sustainability have one thing in common: They are able to focus their efforts on the most material issues and opportunities. What are the connection points between sustainability and YOUR business (i.e., environmental impacts, stakeholder expectations, geography specific risks and opportunities)? How can sustainability: 1) reduce risk and avoid costs; 2) save your company money; and/or 3) strengthen your company by enhancing your reputation and growing revenue?
To answer these questions, the most common approach is to conduct a Materiality Assessment taking into account internal (i.e., executive leadership, directors, employees/recruits) and external (i.e., trade associations, customers, peers/competitors) perspectives. HARMAN offers a great overview of the Materiality Assessment process.
The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has also developed an Industry Brief and Disclosure Standard for six Technology & Communications industries, which provide a summary of the most material sustainability issues for each. You can also engage a SASB Advisory Partner like Antea Group for support.
Step 2: Define your sustainability targets or goals
In order to pursue your priorities, organizations need to know where they are trying to go, or they will end up somewhere else. Defining goals or targets is a key element. The basic process is to:
- Understand your starting point. What do you have in place for each priority area (i.e., data currently collected, in-house capabilities, budget, etc.)?
- Gather input on possible goals, considering:
- Internal stakeholders – Employees with insight and those that will be most impacted.
- External stakeholders – What are expectations of your company and how could goals align with key customers, suppliers, and consumers?
- Peers/Competitors – What have they committed to?
- Create a short-list of potential goals and evaluate the business implications of each.
- Propose goals to leadership and solicit commitment.
- Build out roadmaps for each goal (key actions, accountabilities, KPIs, and milestones).
The following are common questions that technology companies should consider when defining targets or goals:
- How ambitious is the company looking to be? Is the focus on helping to strengthen your company or are you looking beyond your operations and to have an impact on the industry, communities within which you operation, or even future generations?
- Goals are based on the gap between current versus ideal state. What will push your organization, but still be practical enough to achieve given your company’s culture, organization capabilities, and other priorities?
- Is there an established process for driving goals within your organization in terms of assigning accountabilities, establishing roadmaps, tracking performance, etc.? What barriers or hurdles need to be considered early in the process?
Step 3: Share your sustainability journey
There are many channels for sharing your sustainability story, both the achievements and the challenges. Remember this is a journey, with leading companies finding ways to bring along their employees, suppliers, customers, investors, and other key stakeholders along with them in engaging ways. Tech companies have a unique opportunity to more fully leverage advancements in communication technologies and social media platforms. Where possible, quantitatively measuring and monetize your efforts for optimal communications. For more insights on telling your story, read the article Take Control of Your Sustainability Report This Year.
When the economics work, the environmental and social benefits will last. By closely linking your sustainability efforts to business value for your organization, the commitment will be greater, the opportunities more plentiful, and the positive outcomes longer lasting.
To learn more about creating a sustainability strategy for your tech company, get in touch with Antea Group today.