Sustainability isn't something you do once. It's a commitment you make to continue improving over time. As with any changes to your business, it's good to plan ahead.

Developing a sustainability action plan helps you to:

  • understand how sustainable your business is now
  • set achievable objectives and targets so you know where you're going
  • evaluate different actions you can take that work for you
  • develop policies to support you – for example, to communicate new rules for energy use to employees
  • develop a statement about your progress to share with people.

It can be a simple document, as long as it's specific and clear.

Update it at least once a year.

Greenhouse gas emissions harm the climate. Once you know where your emissions come from, you can find ways reduce them. The main source of emissions for businesses tends to be burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transport.

Identify your emissions by calculating:

  • direct emissions from your business that are within your control – for example, the gas for your hot water system or the fuel for your vehicle
  • indirect emissions from your business such as the energy you buy from the grid
  • indirect emissions your customers and supply chain generate – for example, external laundry providers or produce transporters.

Offset carbon

If you can't reduce your emissions, consider carbon offsets

Risk assessment is about looking at what might harm your business and prevent you from achieving your goals.

A holistic assessment looks at risks that relate to sustainability including: 

  • global environmental and social challenges
  • your impact on the environment and society
  • what happens if you don't try to be sustainable
  • challenges you face in being sustainable.

Reassess risks and review your plan to minimise them at least once a year.

There are ways to use energy and water and deal with waste that save you money while protecting the environment. Consider small steps you can take now and bigger changes you can make over time.

If you're not sure how sustainable your supply chain is, you might support unsustainable practices without meaning to. It also puts you at risk of misrepresenting your sustainability, which can cost you a big fine and damage your brand.

Ask suppliers what they're doing to be sustainable. Depending on their responses, you may want to:

  • find opportunities to work with them more as your values align
  • support them to improve their sustainability – for example, by developing sustainable packaging in exchange for more business
  • find alternative suppliers that better align with your values.

A sustainable business cares for the people it employs by:

Sustainability is a team effort. Beyond creating fair work conditions, a sustainable business also brings its employees on the journey. 

Explain to your team why sustainability is important and what you need them to do. Consider creating a new role to drive sustainability, such as a chief sustainability officer or sustainability manager. If it's a voluntary role on top of someone's current role, make sure you give them enough time to do what they need to do.

You can create positive social change beyond the products and services you offer. Social sustainability is about making sure communities can exist in a healthy, fair and equal way. It can start with your business supporting your local community.

Some things you can do for your community include:

  • boosting the local economy by employing people and suppliers in your area
  • contributing to causes such as conservation, cultural or sporting groups.

Support doesn't need to be financial – you can volunteer your time or services too.

Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary guidelines you can follow. They help you show people you have good environmental and social practices.

There are many different ones to choose from, so do your research first. You may need to pay a fee but it can be a good investment for your brand.

Be climate active

If you're going carbon neutral, consider certification with Climate Active.

Sustainability looks different for each business. You can reach out to other businesses to ask what they do and see if they can give you some ideas. For guidance specific to your business you might be able to chat to an adviser

Check if you can apply for grants and programs for sustainability.

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