Responding to Requests for Commitments

3Does It Align with Current Strategy?

Where does the issue fall within your current Sustainability Strategy? Is it aligned with current sustainability and CSR priorities and principles? If your organization does not have a sustainability strategy, use the Setting Sustainability Priorities module to develop one.

Is the practice or policy being requested consistent with sustainability commitments, business objectives and company values? At the highest level, does the request fall within one of the Social, Economic or Environmental dimensions you have prioritized?

Yes No

If no, (does not align or is out of scope of current priorities on the strategy or priority, policy or practice area), review potential tradeoffs (use the Evaluating Sustainability Tradeoffs module for guidance) and implications of adopting to confirm or potentially change position to determine if a change in practice or policy is warranted.

  • Evaluate how the request impacts current sustainability priorities, whether it aligns with company values and business objectives.

  • Questions to consider:

    • What is your overall sustainability strategy – do you want to lead, collaborate, follow or oppose? Strategic consideration within this framework will help provide a compass to guide your decision.
    • If it is not part of your current strategy, should it be? Has the situation changed since you established your sustainability and CSR priorities such that you should re-consider this as a priority? Consider issues that may currently be out-of-scope of your priorities, but evaluate trade-offs before making a decision to change priorities.
      • What are the tradeoffs if you modify your sustainability position? What impacts will the practice or policy have on stated sustainability goals/strategies and other CSR commitments? Use the Evaluating Sustainability Tradeoffs module (link) to aid in this evaluation.
      • What is the economic impact of adopting the policy or practice on input costs, your suppliers, customers or investment in other sustainability initiatives?
      • How important is this to other stakeholders? Who might support a move in this direction? Who might oppose it?
  • If yes, more specifically, does it align with your current priorities, policies or practices? Are you already addressing their issue, in actual practice or the core concern or issue in another way? For instance, if the solution suggested isn’t feasible at this time, is the concern or practice being studied or should time and resources be invested to continue to explore the issue?
  • If yes, communicate how the issue is being addressed to requesting group. Publicly communicate current sustainability commitments and progress so your position is on the record and available to those who are interested.

In all likelihood, you are not the first company to be pressured on the issue. It is highly likely that information exists that can help you evaluate the impact of the request on your current sustainability priorities. Many sustainability issues have been well researched with existing data that can inform your evaluation. See the Resources section for information sources. If you are having trouble finding information, CFI can help connect you to organizations that have evaluated the issue in question.

  • Prepare to publicly communicate current sustainability commitments and progress
    • It is important to communicate and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and CSR priorities, as well as your willingness to engage reasonable critics and stakeholders that raise important issues, even if the issue they raise is not aligned with your current sustainability or CSR priorities. Depending on the level of pressure and the posture of the group making the request, you may need to publicly address the issue and your willingness to engage stakeholders, while you are still evaluating whether or not to change your policy or practice.
    • At minimum, review your website to be sure sustainability information is current and accessible to the public.

Don’t kill the message because you may not like the messenger. Just because you initially may not see common ground with a person or group, consider the issue being raised in an objective way. Perhaps the ask is far beyond what you could reasonably commit to, but is there an aspect of the request that can be addressed or might align with your overall strategy? Looking for scenarios that are win-win for both parties can lead to a more positive outcome even if it is less than full adoption of their position.