Align Your Goals

Align Your Corporate and Sustainability Goals

It’s safe to say that corporate sustainability has matured in the past ten or so years. What started as a series of haphazard projects – “Let’s recycle paper!” “No, electricity is more important!” “We need to focus on employees!” – has developed into a more systematic approach for many organizations. Many firms now measure their social and environmental impacts and set more informed goals based on them.

And yet, sustainability and business agendas are still so often at odds. When was the last time your company decided to forego expanding business due to the associated increase in emissions? Right, never.

So, will we just continue to fight – often unsuccessfully – for sustainability goals to have the same attention as business goals? Or do we throw our hands up and admit that the two are fundamentally at odds? How about neither? Sustainability need not be an afterthought, and it doesn’t even need to be separate from business goals. It’s one of the most effective ways to achieve business goals. It’s part of a larger corporate strategy and should be treated as such.

In a recent paper, the World Resources Institute (WRI) sited four reasons as to why sustainability solutions don’t scale:

  1. Sustainability factors are not being integrated into long-term business strategy
  2. Improved sustainability performance is often not valued in internal capital allocation decisions
  3. The goals of the sustainability team and the financial team are not well aligned
  4. Metrics are needed to account for external environmental costs

In short, sustainability goals are too easy to ignore when they’re separate from overall strategy. The problem is that sustainability and regular business goals are set in two completely different areas, often by different people. At first blush, this may seem logical. The sustainability or CSR department has separate objectives and focus areas than those of the core business. But should it, really?

In the video below, our CEO Kevin Wilhelm delves into the idea of goal alignment in a clip from “Vision and Goal-Setting,” a module from our Introduction to Sustainable Business course.

The key to alignment is rethinking your goal-setting process and maybe even your concept of what sustainability means for your company. Develop corporate and sustainability strategy simultaneously, and frame sustainability as a way to create value rather than to do less bad.

Look to other organizations for inspiration. Greif, an industrial packaging products and services company, sets corporate product development goals using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) information. Instead of setting a corporate goal to drive revenue growth or product information and a separate sustainability goal to reduce the environmental impact of products, Greif is accomplishing both in a more streamlined way.

How can business and sustainability objectives work in tandem for the long-term success of your organization?