How to Set Green Goals by Learning from Industry Leaders

How to Set Green Goals by Learning from Industry Leaders

What's the difference between a good green goal and a great one? Are more goals better than a few -- or are they simply more? And how do your company's goals stack up against others in your industry?

A series of reports from consulting firm Green Research is designed to help businesses answer those questions and craft strong environmental sustainability goals by comparing those set by some of the biggest global firms.

Green Research releases the first batch of reports today in a series called "Benchmarking Sustainability Goals." Available for fees ranging from $250 to $300, the reports offer qualitative and quantitative analysis of sustainability goals set by 32 major firms in four industries: six computer makers, eight banks, eight food processing companies and 10 telecom firms.

"We created this tool as a resource for business strategists, planners and corporate industry sustainability experts," said David Schatsky, principal and founder of Green Research. "There are lots of sources of information about performance of companies, but we haven't seen anything when it comes to assessing the intentions, the goals, of companies."

That assessment, however, isn't a rank-and-spank comparison of the aspirations of global firms. Green Research's reports are "designed to provide high-level insights and a quantitative and qualitative feel (for goals set by companies) at a glance," according to Schatsky.

The material is also intended to help firms be more competitive, whether they view the companies studied as model businesses or rivals. Several key points emerged as the consulting firm consulted its research: It was clear that companies are highly interested in knowing what are considered the "right goals" for their industry, especially given the widely different practices that exist on how to set them, Schatsky said. There also is great interest in knowing what the competition is doing. "It's the competitive factor," he said, "now companies can look at what others are doing."

The reports assess firms' publicly declared environmental sustainability goals based on three key questions:

• How do the goals of major firms within an industry compare?
• What issues are receiving the greatest attention?
• Which companies are setting the most quantitative, forward-looking goals?

Among computer makers, for example, Green Research took a look at goals set by Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Lenovo. Researchers found that goals largely fell into three broad areas, operations, products and packaging, and recycling.

Overall, researchers concluded:

"Computer makers have each adopted an average of 14 public sustainability goals. But not all goals are created equal. Quantitative, forward-looking goals carry the most weight ... Across the sector, product and packaging goals outnumber operational goals."

In addition to presenting findings in short narratives and charts, the reports list the environmental sustainability goals for each company studied. "You can read at a glance the maturity of a company based on the types of goals (it has) and their distribution across the company," Schatsky said. "The broader the array of issues and the more sophisticated their tracking, the greater the relative level of maturity."

"Companies differ significantly in terms of rigor of their goals," he added, and using the reports, readers can see which firms have set goals that are specific, measurable and time bound.

But if the basis for the reports are goals that the companies themselves declared, why should sustainability professional consider buying Green Research's tools?

For one thing, said Schatsky, businesses aren't always consistent in their public statements about goals. Targets listed on one company resource may be different in another and may even be inconsistent on different pages of a company website. Green Research sifted through apparent contradictions and when necessary went to companies to obtain clarity.

Another reason, and perhaps the most compelling, is the time it takes to review and analyze corporate goals for multiple companies in several industries.

"What we've done is not rocket science," Schatsky said, "but we think it adds a lot of value. It's high-quality information that can save an organization hours and hours of trying to pull together this sort of information themselves."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Zach Dischner.