Tools for strategic sustainability

Image by  HOerwin56  from  Pixabay

Image by HOerwin56 from Pixabay

When we get caught up in enthusiastic attention being paid to an issue – like single-use plastic or palm oil – it can knock our planned approach off-course. Or we can use it as an entry point for some strategic thinking. If you get the opportunity to strategise with senior leaders, what are the tools to help you?

If you want to do a more rigorous analysis of your sustainability impacts and opportunities, people I interviewed for Change Management for Sustainable Development recommended a range of frameworks and tools. Here they are, so you can use them too.

Science-based targets – these can help you understand your contribution to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and other globally-recognised goals, and then targets which are relevant and appropriate to your organisation’s situation.

Megatrends and futures - exploring the implications of future megatrends with different teams and senior leadership. ‘Futures’ thinking allows you to take people out of their current environment and work through the risks and opportunities they may experience in the future. There are a range of techniques that people use from horizon scanning to identify trends, to visions to define the future you want, to scenarios that allow you to explore different plausible futures. For methods to help explore futures, see

B-Corp’s B-Impact Assessment - There is an open source self-assessment tool which any company can use, without committing to certification. The results include benchmarking. B-Impact assessment is part of the B-Corp family, which also provides certification to companies.

Future Fit Benchmarking - Also open source, this benchmark is a self-assessment tool for any business, based on The Natural Step framework.

Standards - for organisations which love official standards, BSI has a number of standards and guidance documents. There is a navigator here to help you find your way around them.

Sustainable Development Goals - analyse your contribution to (or undermining of) the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals/Global Goals. Use the SDGs as a way of understanding current impacts, envisaging the desired future, and analysing where the organisation is helping or has opportunities to do so, or is getting in the way (and risks having its license to operate reduced as a result). WBCSD, GRI and the UN Global Compact have a platform which helps you identify tools to understand the SDGs. UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) supports organisations who are working to advance sustainable development and helps to facilitate the delivery of the SDGs in the UK.

Organisational maturity - There are a number of maturity spectrums in use, for example this from Cranfield University: stages of organisational maturity. It can be used both to diagnose where the organisation is now, and to prompt thinking about where people would like it to be by when, what this would look like in detail, and what needs to happen to get from now to then.

Three Horizons - Used in the worlds of innovation and growth, this frameworkenables people to think about the current situation, the desired (or anticipated) future and the transition between the two, identifying those aspects of the current situation which will and won’t fit with the emerging future. See also the book ‘Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope’ by Bill Sharpe.

Making the Path by Walking

This post was first published in my Making the Path by Walking newsletter, July 2019. For practical tips on facilitation, organisational change and sustainability to your inbox each month, scroll down to the footer to subscribe.