Embedding Sustainability in Business Operations

Photo by Josh Power on Unsplash

You live and breathe sustainability and supporting the planet, right? Sustainability is in every fiber of your being! But is it embedded in every fiber of your business operations? Protecting the planet goes beyond just a value you hold when you’re in business – it needs to be engrained in the work that is being done by everyone who touches your business.

Today let’s talk about what are the critical operations management systems necessary to embed sustainability in day-to-day business. Here is a high-level rundown:

  • Operations management system is the blueprint for how a company does work – it is meant to support the whole organization from the top down.
  • Circular approach in which leaders are supporting employees, who are supporting the operations, and feedback is returned and acted upon at all levels.
  • Goals and metrics that are related to sustainability – equal to and integrated with production and revenue related metrics, they could be:
    • Lagging indicators (output after an event occurs): Energy consumption, emissions, water usage, waste, supply chain
    • Leading indicators (input before an event occurs): Sustainability project efforts, pre-implementation sustainability audit, environmental audits, employee training
  • Communications – leaders need to be able to clearly explain what the company goals are, why they are important, what they are doing to support the goals and what employee’s roles are in the company efforts
  • Written requirements and instructions for how work is performed (standard operating procedures (SOPs), standard work, processes, operating instructions) and those should include sustainability measures. Ideally there isn’t a separate document for the same task, otherwise it isn’t viewed as one in the same.
  • Tools and equipment: should be aligned with sustainability initiatives.
  • Training: Training is important to ensure that all employees have the same understanding of how to perform their work and how environmental efforts tie into the work that they perform.

What are best practices to engage employees in sustainability initiatives?

  • Employee engagement efforts are important to gain buy in and to get important insights into how work is performed.
  • A great tactic is to include sustainability as a part of each employees’ annual performance goals with tangible activities that can be performed to meet those goals.
  • Employee-led committees with leadership support.
  • Department representatives for sustainability and environmental efforts.
  • Leadership should highlight those efforts to the entire organization so that everyone understands the importance.

As business leaders, how do we know if we’re succeeding in embedding sustainability in the organization?

  • Conduct assessments or audits to verify within the operations and conduct a root cause analysis for any issues or gaps that arise
  • Get feedback from employees: Circular feedback loop when an employee submits concerns, Townhalls, Employee surveys – most importantly, this should be a regular conversation that is happening internally so that its normalized and not just a ‘check-the-box’ activity.

Have any questions? Want to learn more? Shoot me an email at

Brie DeLisi Zoller • Brie Z Operations

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