Setting Sustainability Priorities

1 Establish a Sustainability Leadership Team

Due to the complexity of sustainability, initiatives are often spread across a company, depending on which functional area is impacted or tasked with implementing sustainability policy. If your organization does not have a dedicated sustainability department or position, and many do not, it is important to designate someone to be responsible for leading a cross-functional team focused on sustainability. The person selected for this role ideally is a member of the senior leadership team who carries the full support of the organization’s management.


The authority to hold accountable those who do not report to them in the business organization is imperative for success. Performance goals and evaluations should recognize individuals’ sustainability activities and acknowledge their contributions that may extend beyond their day-to-day job descriptions. Visible senior support for a sustainability taskforce is crucial for the work to receive the appropriate priority and resources needed for success.


In creating a Sustainability Leadership Team, as indicated by the complex dimensions of sustainability, this guidance group should reflect the diversity of functional areas potentially impacted by sustainability initiatives and potentially a range of stakeholders. Depending on your goals and comfort level, this may include only company management and employees or may include external stakeholders as well. Maximum credibility and acceptance will come from being more rather than less transparent and inclusive. Regardless of who you ultimately involve, the final decisions on which areas of sustainability are a priority remain with the company.

Functional areas to consider for inclusion on a sustainability leadership team include:

  • Environmental
  • Operations
  • Human Resources
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Sales/Marketing
  • Communications
  • Public Affairs
  • Transportation/Distribution/Logistics
  • Purchasing
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