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Greenville Business Magazine

How to Incorporate Sustainability Into Your 2023 Planning

Oct 03, 2022 11:13AM ● By Kari Snyder

While many organizations set their philanthropic priorities for the year ahead during the fourth-quarter months, sustainability goals are still commonly overlooked as part of annual planning. This remains true despite the growing need to address corporate social responsibility and the overall condition of our planet. 

Over the past few years, the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX has had the privilege of expanding our philanthropic purpose to include environmentally focused best practices through a formal sustainability program. For us, as well as our many local partners, sustainability has become a business imperative and a core part of our mission. While our approach is a work in progress, it is built around the idea that our legacy must include leaving the planet in a better social, economic, and environmental condition than we found it.

I think we would all agree that implementing sustainable practices is the right thing to do, but it’s also important to consider that sustainability is good for an organization’s stability and long-term growth. As businesses continue to navigate The Great Resignation, considering the attributes your employees value is critical. Findings from a recent IBM survey noted a growing interest in employees applying for and accepting jobs from environmentally sustainable companies, with 68 percent of those surveyed being more willing to accept positions from such organizations. 

Beyond employee retention, sustainability is proven to have a direct correlation to increased sales within many industries. Consider that millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) continue to increase their buying power while holding more leadership positions. According to a recent study by global consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, it’s been found that 42 percent of this group is willing to pay for sustainable products compared to just 26 percent of Baby Boomers.

The indicators that sustainability is good for business remain strong. While many businesses want to put a plan in action, they find themselves overwhelmed by how to get started. Below are a few ideas to move the needle, keeping in mind that small changes are a step in the right direction.

Determine core pillars and set realistic goals

Choosing the pillars your organization should focus on is critical as you begin your planning. Try selecting two to three areas such as carbon footprint reduction, improved waste management, or the transition to sustainable materials. For example, the BMW Charity Pro-Am chose to focus on waste diversion and becoming a zero-waste-to-landfill event during the first year we formalized our sustainability plan. In year two, we focused on carbon neutrality and composting. There’s not a one-size-fits-all formula, so think about what works for your company and industry. Once pillars are established and goals are set, communicate expectations to employees and stakeholders first and foremost. 

Create a “Green Team”

One of the first and most important steps for success is to organize a team of like-minded individuals to help accomplish your goals. The tournament could not have accomplished our sustainability goals without the more than 75 volunteers that made up our Green Team. Create a group of volunteers and team members that will help educate the rest of your team and ensure follow through on your short- and long-term goals. This group can also act as spokespeople for your program and help get the message out to the community and your stakeholders.

Seek outside partners

Once a Green Team is identified and each member understands their role and responsibilities, encourage them to seek outside partners. There are numerous local groups willing to help, and your strategy will quickly move in the right direction with the support of your community. You’ll find other organizations – some ahead of your efforts and some behind – that can come together to make a lasting impact.

Establish your baseline

Being honest with where you are and where you need to be will serve as your foundation for growth and is also important for long-term measurement. Seeing “where you are” on paper may be discouraging or even overwhelming, but each of us has to start somewhere. You can get started by finding the right partners to help you measure your waste diversion, carbon footprint, or another area of focus. Hiring a third-party consultant to help establish your baselines may also be helpful. Having the conversation in the first place is something that should be celebrated. 

Consider a third-party consultant for measurement services

Accurate measurement can be one of the most overwhelming aspects of a formal sustainability program. In our experience, it’s best to leave it to the experts who thoroughly understand measurement best practices and how they are evolving. Third-party experts can also advise on key strategies, such as lowering an organization’s carbon footprint by purchasing carbon offsets. This could include anything from hosting local tree giveaways to supporting natural habitat revitalization in the parts of the world that need it most.

Outline the framework for an annual report

Establish your reporting goals from the beginning – what will the report include; when will it be published; and who will receive it? 

Market your accomplishments and future initiatives

Having a plan in place to market your findings is also important. In addition to reaching corporate stakeholders, vendors and contractors, marketing efforts can help reach new prospects who may be able to further support your mission.

Through our own work, the BMW Charity Pro-Am has quickly learned that any organization’s sustainability efforts will always be a work in progress. It’s best to strive for improvement, not perfection – for small steps, not monumental leaps. As we look ahead to 2023, join us along with many Upstate companies, to formalize plans that will leave our community in the best shape possible for future generations.

Kari Snyder is Director of Community Engagement & Sustainability, BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by TD SYNNEX.