5 Steps for Building your Business’ Sustainability Strategy – and Getting Recognised for It

In celebration of the news last month that Welltower has achieved DJSI listing, Eco-Age Head of Consultancy Simon Evans breaks down five key steps for any business working towards sustainability recognition.

In September, US-headquartered real estate investment trust (REIT) Welltower was listed to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. Launched in 1999, the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) is a family of benchmarks that track the stock performance of the world’s leading companies in terms of economic, environmental and social criteria. 

If you’re starting out in building a corporate sustainability strategy, here are five key areas to focus on:

1. Get to know and engage with your stakeholders 

The first step is to get to know every person, group and company that your business impacts (both positively and negatively).  If you don’t know who these groups are, you run the risk of a negative business relationship or missing out on a golden opportunity.  Once you actively engage with your key stakeholders, you can identify where you can work together to push your sustainability strategy.

2. Understand your sustainability risks 

Knowing where your environmental or social risks lie in the product you make or the service you offer is critical to focusing your efforts on areas that will have the highest impact.  Undertaking a thorough materiality assessment (and renewing it regularly), will show whether you’re focusing on the right issues and targeting the biggest risks.

3. Gathering the right data & setting targets

When it comes to indices such as the DJSI, data is king.  If you want to show people that you’re improving your environmental and social performance, one way is get credible (assured) data, set targets against it and then build management plans to achieve those targets. If you’ve spoken to your stakeholders (see 1) as part of a comprehensive materiality assessment (see 2) then you should be able to prove your strategy works, which will allow you to perform well and report well (see 4 & 5).

4. Report well

Public reporting done well is key to showing stakeholders that you are transparent and accountable.  Demonstrating that your strategy accepts the challenges of your industry while understanding the context of global issues helps to build confidence that your company is serious about managing environmental and social impacts.

5. Seek feedback and continually improve

Get feedback from wherever you can – internal and external stakeholders will tell you where you’re going right and wrong (see 1 again).  This completes the cycle, allowing you to see where you made improvements, which initiatives worked well and how far you can push yourself next year.  Sustainability, by its very essence, never stops – keep improving, keep assessing and managing the risks and opportunities, keep tracking the data and reporting accurately and honestly.