Conducting a Sustainability Assessment Reply

Every business has a number of sustainability practices already in place.  Because the practices are spread across many operating functions, it may be difficult to identify all of them.  We often compare this to the tiles in a game of “Scrabble.”  You find the sustainability practices that you have in place, and then you strive to make sense with them.  In Scrabble, you select the tiles and then arrange them on a board to make words.  You link the words to other words to score more points.  Your sustainability program activities need to be ordered similarly in a transparent way to contribute value to your organization. 

Instead of the Scrabble board, you could use an integrated management system to help organize your sustainability effort.  With the introduction of ISO 26000 (social responsibility standard), it is easier than ever to integrate all three responsibilities (environmental stewardship, social well being and economic prosperity) into a single program.  This new guidance provides some of the program elements that need to be searched for within the scope of a sustainability assessment. 

CAPACCIO uses a pre-visit questionnaire to help an organization locate the sources of information, in order to determine activities and processes that address each of these responsibilities.  By conducting a site visit, it is possible to get a good picture of the current state of the sustainability program.  The components of an integrated management system help to identify the gaps in the program.  Sometimes there are not any gaps at all.  This information just resides in different functions in the company and the activities just have not been communicated internally.  The integrated management system provides a framework for both internal and external communications.  It also inventories the environmental, social and economic elements that should be captured in this program.

It is very important to have a complete sustainability baseline before attempting to benchmark the program with competitors and customers.  We always find more program elements than are captured in the pre-visit questionnaire.  This is why it is prudent to have a different set of eyes involved in the sustainability assessment.  You need someone that can communicate with all of the functional managers involved in the efforts.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” list to use for the interviews.  An experienced sustainability assessor will often find pertinent activities that are not on the “checklist.”

Once you begin to see the sustainability activities, you can form teams to link them just as you do in a game of Scrabble.  By increasing the value of sustainability to the organization, there will be a drive to fill the gaps and create yet more links.  It is now possible to create a “roadmap” to improve the program and getting more people involved.  All this – thanks to ISO 26000 guidance.

 

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