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5 steps to build your sustainability strategy

Guest post by Seedling.

As the planet continues to warm, there is a growing expectation for businesses to balance profit with impact on people and planet. Becoming a sustainable business isn’t only the right thing to do – it can help you win more business, recruit and retain employees, and attract investment.

But how does this work in practice? Here are the 5 steps that any business can take to build a sustainability strategy that leads the way.

  1. Understand your impact

It’s hard to influence what you aren’t measuring, so step one is to understand your carbon footprint. And don’t assume that, just because you’re not operating a fleet or a factory, this step doesn’t apply to you. If you’re a fully-remote startup with a cloud-based tech platform then you might not emit CO2 directly, but your supply chain, employees, and customers do – and these all count in your footprint. Free online tools can provide a great starting point. For a footprint that is comprehensive, accounts for quirks, and delivers the detail needed to drive change, look to a carbon accountant that complies with the GHG Protocol (the international gold standard).

  • Set reduction targets

Resolved in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the global ambition is to limit global warming to 1.5Co – and every business has a role to play. Once you’ve measured your footprint, set reduction targets that align to the global effort. This means aiming to cut your emissions in half by 2030 and by 90% by 2050.

  • Adopt a reduction plan

Small changes can aggregate to make a difference. Some are obvious (better energy efficiency), but others can be surprising: manufacturing the average laptop produces emissions equivalent to flying Bristol to Berlin and back – so can you buy refurbished? Equally, encouraging remote working can end up net negative when taking the additional home energy usage into account! The key is to use your emissions data to set your optimal reduction strategy.

  • Invest in climate action

Despite the small changes any business can make, we can’t reach full decarbonisation without large-scale transitions in infrastructure and technology. But we can maximise our impact now by offsetting the emissions we can’t yet avoid. This involves investing in projects around the world that lead to the avoidance of new emissions or the removal of existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – such as renewable energy installations and tree-planting. The UN’s CDM and the Gold Standard organisation offer accredited, high-quality projects that also support wider co-benefits (e.g. biodiversity, gender equality).

  • Encourage others to act

Once you’ve taken action, you can lead others – employees, clients, even your competitors – to do the same. Share your impact with your network, being as transparent as possible to avoid risk of greenwashing. Always focus first on your own actions (measuring and reducing your emissions) before talking about the wider impact you’re having through offsetting projects.

Seedling is a climate action platform designed for SMEs. We make it easy for any business to measure, reduce and offset their emissions. Get in touch at