Crafting and implementing a sustainability action plan

It can be challenging to implement changes as a small business but a sustainability action plan can make it easier, inspiring the cooperation of your workforce and delivering positive results.

With time and resources potentially in short supply as businesses build back from Covid-19, green working practices such as recycling may seem an inconvenient distraction for busy employees.

However, as smaller businesses are responsible for 50% of business-driven emissions, boosting company sustainability will help the UK become a net zero nation by 2050.

To play your part there are steps you can take to encourage staff buy-in and to execute your sustainability plan with as little disruption as possible.

This guide explores how to implement your plan and ways to measure its success so you can ensure your company meets its sustainability goals.

Communicate your sustainability plan

Implementing your organisation's sustainability action plan requires commitment from the entire workforce and it's essential that everyone is fully informed.

Ideally, you should have consulted and communicated with your employees while drawing up your action plan and this should make announcing upcoming changes simpler if employees feel that they've had a say in the plan.

When making employees aware of the plan it can be a good idea to include a Q&A session, so staff can raise their concerns.

Use feedback to identify any areas of uncertainty and adapt your communication strategy accordingly.

Ensure employees are kept up to date with new developments and appoint a sustainability plan roll-out manager or staff champion to answer employee questions.

Your company communications could also encompass external parties such as customers and suppliers, so you can share your aims and what actions your business is taking to become more sustainable.

Involve your employees

You should anticipate resistance from staff and prepare responses for likely criticisms so consider inviting employees to an open-floor debate where they can voice their concerns.

It can be a good idea to involve employees in delivering the plan to give staff a sense of ownership, and consider setting up focus groups to identify the best way to implement your plan.

You can use these sessions to seek out highly-engaged individuals who might be good as sustainability champions to motivate others to support the plan.

A champion could be responsible for ensuring sustainable activities are in place, should be diplomatic, and have a good understanding of the action plan so they can answer staff questions.

Even with excellent communication, your action plan might not always find favour with 100% of your workforce but you can help staff understanding by being clear about your company's mission, explaining the benefits of the changes, and being responsive to employee enquiries.

Measure and report

Monitoring your company's progress towards your sustainability targets demonstrates the action plan's effectiveness and highlights any weaknesses.

A straightforward way of measuring sustainability improvements is to hold an environmental audit or calculate your company's carbon footprint at regular intervals.

Review your data in accordance with your key sustainability goals and if you are behind schedule, identify where improvements need to be made.

Examining your workforce's experience of the plan's rollout through questionnaires and feedback sessions allows you to recognise areas where staff may be struggling to adapt and make adjustments.

Documenting your progress in the form of reports can ensure that sustainability remains a company priority, especially if you decide to make these reports public.

Your report could include figures on your company's energy usage, water usage, waste production, recycling, and transport use.

An essential part of the report is to demonstrate areas of progress by chronologically comparing reports.

Openly publishing your reports on your company website or social media can help demonstrate your organisation's commitment to sustainable development, help maintain momentum, and could also boost confidence in your company's values from existing stakeholders and potential clients.

Investigate environmental accreditations or certified frameworks to monitor your progress

Having your environmental impact certified by a professional body ensures accurate data and adds to your company's credibility as a sustainably-focused business.

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a process that allows businesses to record and monitor their environmental impact, and ensure sustainable processes are in place.

The most widely used EMS in the world is the International Organisation for Standardization 14001 (ISO 14001) Standard and helps businesses improve their environmental impact through activities such as better waste control and more efficient use of resources.

Alternatively, some organisations are becoming a Certified B Corporation.

These are businesses that meet assigned standards of environmental and social performance, with certification being awarded after a comprehensive assessment.

Gaining B Corp status could boost your public and corporate profile as the certification acts a visible indicator of sustainable performance.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

Green Decoder

Featuring a glossary of sustainable terms curated in partnership with the Nottingham Business School, Nottingham Trent University, our green decoder is helping smaller businesses decipher the terminology surrounding decarbonisation.

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