A 2016 Accenture study found that 90% of CEOs said that they were personally committed to sustainability initiatives. In 2019, when Accenture repeated the study, almost half of CEOs were actively implementing sustainability in business operations.
Sustainability has become a strategic goal for many companies to protect the long-term health of the company, as well as demonstrate to employees and customers that the company is committed to their long-term health and well-being.
When evaluating sustainability opportunities in a business strategy, begin with the following steps:
Step 1: Examine what your business is already doing. This playbook identifies sustainability-related activities that a company may already be doing, but perhaps for other reasons like cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. Some of these cost-saving and revenue-driven activities also have positive sustainability dimensions.
Step 2: Look at what others are doing. Sustainability is about making smart, long-term business decisions. How do other business communication what they are doing and the benefits to their bottom line? What is your business overlooking?
Step 3: Set sustainability priorities and goals. Whether or not a company promotes its goals, having clearly defined sustainability priorities and goals helps align everyone in the company from the top down. When setting goals, use a triple-bottom line perspective to identify goals that are most significant to the business, to the communities served and to broader environment. Many global companies including 7-Eleven Inc. and Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. connect their sustainability goals with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Step 4: Measure progress. Without clear and defined metrics that are reliably reported and examined, it is difficult to know if a company is making progress.
Step 5: Share your story internally. People inside the company need to know about the company’s sustainability priorities and the progress being made. Some companies find it profitable to also share their stories with customers.
Step 6: Repeat. Go back to Step 1. Like all aspects of any business, the market is continually innovating and evolving. Consumer demands change, and new information and technologies emerge. Competitors find new approaches. Remaining successful requires repeating this process as part of a continual improvement process.
The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all UN member states in 2015. They include 17 specific goals to address the world’s most critical needs.
Many global companies are working to align their strategic corporate goals with relevant SDGs. Companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, Google, IBM, Intel, Mars, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Nestle, P&G, Pirelli, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney and Walmart have publicly announced their alignment with specific goals.
In the convenience retail industry, 7-Eleven connects its strategic priorities with Goals 4, 6, 7 and 13. Couche-Tard prioritizes Goals 8, 11, 12, 13 and 17.
Aligning with global goals might be too ambitious for most convenience store owners, but the SDGs do provide insights into global sustainability concerns.