3 keys to making sustainability central to success

This is the second in a monthly column highlighting critical organizational design and development elements that support a sustainability strategy.

Last month, we highlighted the importance of a vision as a way to guide an organization towards sustainability. Now we’re turning attention on how sustainability can be structured within an organization -- and how elevating it from within can lead to greater success.

Typically, there are three ways an organization can approach its efforts: by centralizing its work, integrating it, or embedding it.

Centralized approach

When a vision first begins to bloom, a centralized approach makes sense with one person leading the way as it can be challenging for an entire company to implement a new initiative from the start. A few direct reports and some supporting groups of leaders might also join the effort.

This approach allows for focus. Be forewarned, though, that this can sometimes silo sustainability as a separate division within an organization. Usually, however, this morphs quickly to a broader-based vision as the leaders gain excitement through executing plans and seeing results.

Once efforts start to work – measurable differences in energy savings or increases in recycling, for instance – both employees and executives start to take notice. It may get mentioned in board meetings or team meetings, which can spark additional ideas about how to implement sustainability initiatives. 

This sets the stage for integrating ideas across the business more broadly. There’s a desire to continue to increase the positive change, so projects get duplicated in other units or divisions. 

Photo of man drawing diagram provided by Dusit via Shutterstock

Next page: Integrated approach