• Caterina Sullivan

How Can Your SME Set Meaningful and Measurable Sustainability Goals?



Many small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) want to engage in sustainability practices but are unsure of how to do so in a meaningful way and how to report back on these targets.

Here are some tips for SMEs to ensure they are setting meaningful goals, in line with international standards, and are reporting on these effectively.


1. Become acquainted with the Global Goals


The United Nations' 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development make up Agenda 2030, the world's most progressive, inclusive and ambitious sustainable development agenda to date. These goals are accompanied by 169 targets and 232 measurable indicators and include all major areas of economic, social and environmental sustainable development. The goals are a great place to start for small businesses looking to begin sustainable business practices. They also allow your business to align with international standards, as many large corporates around the world have pledged to contribute towards the achievement of the Global Goals, also known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


2. Start small


A good idea when it comes to starting your business on your sustainability journey is to start small - not to commit to too many new practices at once. A gradual roll-out of practices will allow the transition to be a lot smoother and allow you to bring your team, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders on the journey with you. Within the first month, two to three new practices will be plenty to begin your transition.


3. Work out your current standing


You cannot know if you are improving if you do not know the place from where your are starting. In setting sustainability goals, it is very important to know what your current measurements are. For example, if you are looking to set an energy efficiency target, you need to know which devices have a high rating and which devices have a low rating. If you are unable to work this out, a good sustainability goal would be to ensure that over the next three years, you know all of your device energy efficiency ratings.


4. Work as a team


It is important that your entire leadership team works with other members of your team in order to set these goals. It is important that when sustainability goals are set, they do not negatively impact your customers' experience of your business. For example, if you are looking to do away with plastic straws, do not eliminate straws entirely; find an eco-friendly alternative to ensure your customers are not affected. Front-of-line staff are really important in this decision-making process as they are able to report back to the leadership team on what is working and not working from the customers' point of view.


5. Set realistic goals


It is better to send out a press release saying that you have exceeded your sustainability goals rather than you have failed to meet them. Set realistic goals for your organisation which are manageable, reportable and cost-effective. Also, take into consideration the time it can take to achieve some goals. For example, making a commitment to leverage your supply chain sounds simple and straightforward, but it takes time to find new suppliers at a competitive price which are as committed to economic, social and environmental sustainability as your organisation.


6. Ensure each goal is accompanied by a timeframe


Your stakeholders will want to know you are on-track to meet your goals by a certain date. Your date needs to be public to ensure your stakeholders know that you are seriously committed to taking somewhat urgent action on your commitment to sustainability. These hold your business to account and allow your organisation to reflect and review your goals, targets and policies at certain intervals.


7. Create business practice policies to support your goals


Your sustainability goals will never be achieved if they are separate to the core operations of your business. These goals need to be embedded in your business through meaningful policy change. A commitment to energy efficiency needs to be reflected through implementation of an energy efficiency policy which will support your business in achieving its goals by the deadline set.


8. Review your goals periodically


Once you have decided upon your sustainability goals, it is important that you reflect your progress towards them at certain intervals - not just at reporting time - to ensure your are on-track to achieve your goals. Again, it is important to involve your team in these discussions as they may be able to provide feedback on what works and what doesn't work and suggest some ideas to try which might ensure your business meets its sustainability goals either on time or ahead of schedule!


The most important part of your sustainability goals is ensuring you are reporting back to your stakeholders on your achievement. A commitment to sustainability is an admirable practice in business, and there will be many customers, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders interested to know how you are going in your commitment. It may also attract new customers, especially millennials who research has shown to be more sustainably conscious in their purchase decisions.


If you have any questions about which sustainability goals might work well for your business, contact a member of our team today!


This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website.

Authorised by Caterina Sullivan (2018)

PO Box 6157

O'CONNOR ACT 2602

Australia