Sustainability strategies – How to begin

‘Sustainability is business and business is sustainability’

In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, sustainability is no longer an optional add-on but a fundamental aspect of strategic planning for companies of all sizes. From assessing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to integrating sustainability deeply into operational strategies, organizations are recognizing the imperative to act responsibly. In this essay, we dive into how businesses can begin their journey towards sustainability, highlighting the steps to identify challenges and opportunities, the importance of comprehensive value chain analysis, and the integration of sustainability into the core business strategy.

United Nations sustainable development goals

Laying the groundwork for sustainability

Every entity, be it a corporate giant or a rapidly growing start-up, necessitates a strategy rooted in sustainability or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) principles. There are hundreds of models out there designed to help you pick and concentrate on what’s important. Each one should guide you through the following initial steps:

1. What are your sustainability challenges or opportunities? No singular answer exists, yet an excellent initiation point is the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It’s crucial to apply a geographic lens to your evaluation, acknowledging that priorities and needs diverge globally. Assess whether each goal represents:

– Essential baseline requirements

– A catalyst for marketing initiatives

– A distinct competitive advantage

– A gateway to pioneering a new business model

2. Beyond these overarching goals, zoom into the specifics of your business, sector, and value chain. Determine your relevance or potential impact areas. Analyzing the entirety of your value chain is vital, recognizing that significant impacts might lie beyond direct operations. Often, addressing these areas necessitates collaboration across various stakeholders.

3. Sustainability decisions must themselves be sustainable; a seemingly obvious statement that bears repeating. Solutions should be viable at scale and sustainable over time. Recall the unintended consequences of shifting to biofuels or palm oil, which prompted food scarcity concerns and deforestation challenges, respectively. When any solution is applied globally, new dilemmas emerge, necessitating foresight and comprehensive planning.

4. Embedding sustainability objectives into your strategy, transformative agenda, and daily operations is imperative. While special emphasis is necessary, sustainability should not be siloed but integrated seamlessly, because:

‘Sustainability is business and business is sustainability’

My personal insights

  • Listening to your team is invaluable; they possess insights into both needs and feasible solutions.
  • Beware of transient trends that may backfire. Instead of dwelling on past successes or failures, focus on the horizon, deciphering early indicators and preparing for variable futures.
  • Transparency is paramount. Clearly articulate your vision and objectives, setting ambitious yet attainable short-term goals. Honesty about challenges strengthens credibility.
  • Lead by example. Actions speak louder than words, underscoring the importance of embodying the principles you advocate.

Want to elevate your sustainability game?

Interested in deepening your understanding of sustainability strategies or wish to discuss your specific scenario? Let’s journey together to refine your sustainability strategies, ensuring you’re prepared for every move on the business chessboard. Connect with me at or +31-6-53361249 to explore deeper insights and tailored strategies that can elevate your competitive edge. 

Inspired, but not facing a concrete challenge right now? Let’s connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch and share valuable insights.