What You Can Do
Sustainability strategies will be unique to each organization and sector based on a variety of factors including industry dynamics, internal priorities, and leaders. However, sustainability strategies provide a guiding framework and shared set of goals for organizations to work towards along the sustainability journey! Generally a sustainability strategy will follow a typical business strategy setting processes involving stages for planning, implementation, and measuring of progress. It is best practice for sustainability strategies to align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). Links to these best practices are woven throughout this report. Learn more about the UN SDGs at the link below!
Understanding and tracking your organization’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions output allows you to set measurable and tangible goals to reduce your environmental impact. But why are GHGs important?
According to the IPCC, global greenhouse gases are at their highest atmospheric concentration since the industrial revolution and accelerating ten times faster than “any other time during the last 800,000 years”. This concentration in the atmosphere is verging on irreversible climatic changes which will lead to unprecedented consequences across the world. Business has an opportunity to lead the charge by leveraging the scale, agility, and resources to do so.
EPA: Overview of Greenhouse Gases and NRDC: Greenhouse Effect 101
The more GHGs in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet will get. There are three important factors to consider when understanding the impact of these gases: the amount of gas in the atmosphere, the atmospheric lifetime of the gas, and the global warming potential of the gas.
GHG 101 from NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is a great and simple overview of what GHGs are, what the GHG effect is, and why all of this climate work matters! Check it out!
GHG PROTOCOL CORPORATE ACCOUNTING AND REPORTING STANDARD
The GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard outlines the current recommendations and guidance for companies beginning their journey to write and publish a corporate-level GHG emissions inventory. The guidance documents include overview of emissions and their sources, the categorization of emissions into Scope 1, 2, and 3 emission categories, how to measure, set a target and report out on progress. The GHG Protocol organization has published several tools to assist companies and cities along this journey.
GHG Protocol for Corporations
The top seven greenhouse gases (from the Kyoto Protocol) are included in the accounting and reporting calculations, including: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PCFs), sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are essential for all industries and organizations of any size.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are integral for addressing the many challenges we currently face. DEI initiatives help create inclusive organizations that offer equal opportunities for all employees. They also create safe and collaborative spaces to help address complex sustainability issues, as well as your clients’ and community’s needs through a wide range of perspectives, skills and resources.
UN SDG #5: GENDER EQUALITY
This UN Sustainable Development Goal aims to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” The goal outlines several indicators that organizations can use as guidance when preparing their internal strategies and policies. It also ensures robust non discrimination policies for women in the workplace. You can also check out the UN SDG #5 United States indicators.
UN SDG #8: DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH
This UN Sustainable Development Goal aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.” When developing goals that align with this UN SDG, consider how your organization approaches inclusive hiring practices, creates safe work environments, and strengthens the capacity for individuals to access financial growth.
Sustainable sourcing strategies can help an organization to be more socially, environmentally, and ethically responsible.
Sustainable sourcing strategies can begin with a Supplier Code of Conduct or include internal company policies that integrate a variety of factors (social, environmental, human rights, and ethical) into the process of sourcing materials, selecting suppliers, and contracting with vendors. Sustainable sourcing practices are more important than ever as consumers demand transparency and investors demand progress on sustainability goals through reporting.
UN SDG #12: RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION
The indicators within UN SDG #12 are aimed at ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns across industries, companies, and governments. One of the main tenets of this SDG is “decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth” and reducing the environmental impact of the supply chain while your business grows. This can be achieved through strategic partners (suppliers or customers) who are also committed to pursuing sustainability goals and reducing their emissions. As we learned in the GHG section, Scope 3 emissions are value chain emissions. Therefore, as your value chain reduces their carbon footprint, your Scope 3 emissions inventory reduces as well!
ERB TOOLKIT: GLOBAL VALUE CHAINS
The Erb Institute at the University of Michigan has created a variety of toolboxes ranging across a variety of sustainability topics. This toolkit helps organizations evaluate and understand value chain considerations as it relates to environmental, social, and governance performance and impacts, including guidance for updating Supplier Codes of Conduct.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies can assist your organization in lowering your GHG emissions and, in many cases, lowering your electricity costs.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency strategies can assist your organization in lowering your GHG emissions and, in many cases, lowering your electricity costs. All utility providers in Michigan are required to offer clients green energy options, and many offer energy efficiency consulting services.
GREEN POWER PARTNERSHIP
If your organization’s energy use is more than 100,000 kwh/yr, consider joining the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership.
VOLUNTARY GREEN PRICING
Participating Voluntary Green Pricing (VGP) programs through your electric utility company can be a simple and impactful strategy to increasing your organization’s consumption of renewable energy.
What are Voluntary Green Pricing (VGP) Programs? Learn more about them here!
DTE and Consumers Energy make it easy to participate in a voluntary green energy pricing programs:
Sustainable waste management strategies can help an organization better understand and manage their resources; to prioritize sustainable products and operations; and to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Waste management” refers to the operations and activities that relate to the handling of all waste generated by an organization. This commonly includes the generation, collection, sorting, transportation, processing, and disposal of waste. According to the EPA, sustainable waste management strategies can help organizations save money, increase awareness and streamline processes, enhance sustainability, conserve resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions!
EPA'S FOOD WASTE & RECOVERY RESOURCES
The EPA offers a variety of tools and resources that make it easy to evaluate your organization’s waste practices. These tools can be used to understand where you’re at, to set goals, and to track your progress.
EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM): The EPA WARM tool helps organizations evaluate, test scenarios, monitor, and understand impact of waste management strategies.
EPA’s Sustainable Food Waste Resources: These links to programs, guides, networks, and resources help organizations identify opportunities for diverting food waste from landfills in their area.
EPA Waste Management Hierarchy: This guide identifies and ranks waste management strategies with a focus on reduce, reuse, recycle.
Managing and Reducing Waste in Commercial Buildings: This guide outlines sustainable waste management strategies and resources for commercial buildings.
Water is essential to the social, cultural, economic, and ecological systems that support our lives, communities, and environments.
Did you know only 1% of Earth’s water is available for human use? This coupled with a growing global population and increased consumption habits means that freshwater use has increased nearly six-fold since 1990. Water is used in a variety of ways - from use in your home, agriculture, industry, and other municipal uses. Protecting this resource that is foundational to the Great Lakes Region is critical to the continued vitality of the region.
UN SDG #6: CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION
The purpose of this UN Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure clean and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by reducing pollution, protecting aquifers, lakes, and supporting local communities in resource management.
THE AQUEDUCT TOOL
The Aqueduct tool is designed and run by the World Resources Institute. The tool maps water risks such as floods, droughts, and stress, using peer reviewed data. Beyond the tools, the Aqueduct team works one-on-one with corporations, governments, and research partners to help advance best practices in water resources management and enable sustainable growth in a water-constrained world.
WATER USE AND STRESS
Our World in Data published the Water Use and Stress to communicate trends in fresh water consumption around the world.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB)
Erb Toolkit: Decision-making for the Triple Bottom Line
Erb Toolkit: Sustainability Strategy & Implementation
CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Board)
International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
Erb Toolkit: Business Case for Sustainability
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
EPA: Overview of Greenhouse Gases
GHG Protocol for Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard
SBTi Criteria and Recommendations
EPA: Energy Resources for State, Local, and Tribal Governments
Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council
Unilever Sustainable & Regenerative Sourcing
Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact
Erb Toolkit: Global Value Chains
UN: Declaration of Human Rights
EPA: Managing and Reducing Waste
EPA: Waste Reduction Model (WARM)
EPA: Sustainable Food Waste Resources
EPA: Waste Management Hierarchy
EGLE: Sustainable Materials Management
Michigan Health and Human Services Toxic Substances Information
WRI: Solving Water Security Problems
EGLE Wellhead Protection Areas
EGLE Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate
UN SDG: Clean Water and Sanitation
AASHE Racial Equity & Social Justice Resources
ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
Michigan Voluntary Green Pricing
Consumers Energy Distributed Generation
DTE Energy’s Solar and Private Generation