In our last blog we discussed the importance of senior management commitment in reaching your sustainability goals and provided some suggestions on how to engage staff to support that commitment.
Today’s blog looks at Milestone 2 – Operations. This step in the journey will take time (typically up to 12 months) but it’s well worth the effort. Making your operations more resource efficient and less wasteful can result in significant savings, especially if your business is at the beginning of its journey and there is plenty of low hanging fruit.
This milestone is about how to make the internal operations of your business sustainable and ensure initiatives have the greatest chance of success. At this stage hopefully your business will have made a commitment to become sustainable and you have appointed sustainability champions or a green team to help facilitate this Milestone.
You cannot manage what you don’t measure
One of the first actions to take when looking at your internal operations is to understand your current level of resource consumption and waste generation – your baseline from which you can set targets, compare the impact of future efforts and celebrate improvements.
To create your businesses baseline you will need to ideally collect a full year’s worth of bills to measure your operation’s water and energy use and waste and carbon generation. You may wish to do this for your entire operation, a particular input or output, or just a sub-area that you are concerned about.
This milestone includes undertaking a walk-through of your business to look objectively at your processes or practices. This will help to identify obvious areas of waste or inefficiency and what problems there may be. Consider including a person external to your operation as fresh eyes often see opportunities that others who are familiar with the status quo may overlook. Make sure you problem solve with your staff and seek input from your service providers. Sometimes more detailed audits may be required to identify areas of unexplained loss and to accurately measure operations or activities consuming excessive resources or generating large amounts of waste or carbon emissions.
Turning ideas into action!
The next step is to evaluate the feasibility and practicality of any opportunities identified. Remember to consider all ideas, and while not all will be immediately feasible, keep the list for review at a later date. A preliminary evaluation should consider the impact on the product or service, customer expectations, health and safety, environmental performance and resources required. An economic and technical evaluation can then determine capital and ongoing costs as well as savings and associated benefits – the business case. It is important that all staff and stakeholders affected by any changes be informed and included in discussions before they are implemented. Opportunities should be prioritised and form part of a measurable and outcome-focused action plan. At this stage, it is useful to refer back to your baseline data and develop targets so you can measure your performance over time.
Celebrate your wins
Lastly, it is important to reward staff and celebrate progress and successes. This could include discussion in progress meetings, displaying visual information (posters, charts) as well as celebrating successes in newsletters or social media.
Milestone 2 is a stage that will never really be complete as there is always the opportunity for continual improvement and to make stretch goals if initial targets have been met. There is almost always something that can be done better either through new technology and processes or through economic feasibility. It is important at this stage that there are the systems and processes in place to enable your business to compare its performance to its initial baseline. Having this data then helps build the business case for future improvements.
Our next Blog will discuss Milestone 3 – Circular Supply Chains. It is here that you will begin to look externally and assess your broader supply chain. You will work with your suppliers and customers to identify wider opportunities for improvement than just your internal operations.
To find out more, view our free training video which explains further about the five steps towards improving business sustainability and how you can take them within your workplace.
You can also book in a free 20 minute consultation to discuss how your organisation can achieve its sustainability goals more quickly and efficiently.