Setting Sustainability Priorities

2Identify Business Objectives and Company Values

Once your leadership team has been assembled and understands/agrees upon its objective and scope, the important process of identifying and selecting sustainability priorities begins. It can be easy to allow “the squeaky wheel to get the grease” by simply responding to whichever advocacy group is making the most noise or putting the most pressure on the company. But a single or issue-by-issue approach can have unanticipated consequences and result in a scattered, ineffective approach to improving sustainability. Instead, a thoughtful process that aligns sustainability priorities with company values and business strategy and recognizes that not all attributes of sustainability are equal and come with trade-offs will result in a commitment that a company or brand can effectively execute, and provides the best path to success for the company and sustainability.

Effectively considering tradeoffs requires a clear set of business objectives and company values as a starting point. These become the metrics against which you will evaluate tradeoffs and potential conflicts with stakeholders’ sustainability priorities which may be different than the company’s.

Business objectives are generally easy to identify but company values may not be as obvious. Some companies may not have consciously communicated their values as an organization, so taking the time to articulate these values – what is important to the organization, guiding principles of how the company will do business and how its people will conduct themselves – will add an important dimension to future sustainability commitments.

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