What It Is
The first step in executing any sustainability initiative or program is to determine where you want to go by creating your sustainability vision and defining your goals. Your articulated mission, vision or values statements serve as a compass for your organization.
Why It Matters
Even in this tough economic climate, companies with a commitment to sustainability tend to outperform their peers. Researchers at A.T. Kearney looked at 99 companies who have a strong commitment to sustainability (as defined by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and/or the Goldman Sachs Sustain Focus List). They then compared their performance with industry averages. They found that in 16 out of the 18 industries studied, companies committed to sustainability outperformed industry averages by 15% over the six month period.
Aligning your company’s mission, vision and values statements toward sustainability informs customers of its commitment to sustainability.
To publicize your commitment to sustainability, revise your mission, vision or values statements to include principles of sustainability, or write a separate statement. Here are some steps to help you in this process:
- Encourage participation and input from all employees. A shared vision helps each employee understand how he/she individually contributes to the company’s success, as well as how everyone contributes collectively. This can help your organization create a coherent and congruent message, which will improve the effectiveness of communication with clients. To increase stakeholder engagement, gather a team that represents different levels and departments in your organization, which will help you create a message that resonates with the majority of your employees.
- Determine what sustainability means to your organization. Sustainability is a value-based term. No definition can possibly encompass all cultures, nationalities, worldviews, races, businesses, and so on. Really drill down to the core meaning of sustainability, and how that relates to your organization, for each stakeholder participating in the visioning process.
- Write the statement. After all participants have a chance to voice their opinions, use this information to create your organization’s sustainability vision statement.
Writing a Code of Ethics can also help align your company’s mission with its commitment to sustainable practices. There has been a dramatic increase in the ethical expectations of businesses and professions over the past ten years. Customers, clients, and employees are consistently seeking out organizations that define the basic ground rules of their operations. See the Green Plus article, Code of Ethics, for more information on how to write a Code of Ethics for your business.
Examples of Sustainability Vision Statements
- “Charter Films will strive to reduce the impact that our internal operations have on the environment through sustainable practices and source reduction initiatives. In addition, we will seek to provide our customers with solutions designed to help them produce products that are inherently more sustainable.”
- “LG Electronics’ Promise3 represents the promises made to the people, the Earth, and LG Electronics itself: a society in which LG Electronics’ employees, stakeholders, and the entire population can live happily; the Earth which we help make a cleaner, safer place for generations to come by carrying out various environmental activities; and LG Electronics as one of the top international players thanks to its innovative spirit. LG Electronics aims at to realize these three dreams.”
- “Cisco’s commitment to sustainability extends through all phases of our product’s life cycle, from design and manufacturing to support and end of life. Our considerations focus on reducing resource consumption in our development process and reducing resource and related emissions consumption by our products.”
Incorporating sustainability into your organization’s mission, vision or values statements informs and aligns key stakeholders with your sustainability commitment.
Glossary of Related Terms
Mission Statement: A short written statement of your organization’s goals and philosophies. A mission statement defines what an organization is and why it exists. At a minimum, your mission statement should define who your primary customers are, identify the products and services you produce, and describe the geographical location in which you operate.
Vision Statement: While a mission statement focuses on a company’s present state, a vision statement focuses on a company’s future. It is a description of what an organization would like to achieve or accomplish in the mid-term or long-term future. It is intended to serves as a clear guide for choosing current and future courses of action.
 Charter Films, “Charter Films Sustainability Vision Statement,” http://www.flexpack.org/MEMONL/mo_sustainable_packaging/sp_member_initiatives/Charter_Films/Sustainability%20Initiatives%20and%20Activities.pdf, accessed 6 August 2013.
 Quoted in Barbra Batshalom, “Putting the Management back in Change Part 3: Vision,” Sustainable Performance Institute, http://www.sustainable-performance.org/putting-the-management-back-in-change-part-3-vision/, accessed 6 August 2013.
 “Our Commitment to Product Sustainability,” CISCO, http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2008/ekits/g4_Cisco_Commitment_to_Product_Sustainability_030308.pdf, accessed 6 August 2013.