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How to prepare a Sustainability Business Plan

A sustainability business plan should integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations into the strategic planning and operations of the business. Here are the key elements a sustainability business plan should include:

  1. Executive Summary: This section provides an overview of your business and your sustainability plan. It should be compelling and attract the interest of your audience.
  2. Business Description: A brief summary of your business including what you do, how you do it, the industry you’re in, and the markets you serve.
  3. Sustainability Vision and Goals: Define the sustainability goals for your business. This could include environmental goals such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, social goals such as improving worker safety or community involvement, and economic goals such as improving operational efficiency or reducing costs. You should also state your broader vision for sustainability and how it aligns with your business model and brand.
  4. Environmental Impact Assessment: Analyze your business’s current environmental footprint. This can include your energy use, waste production, water use, and other environmental impacts. This assessment will provide a baseline from which you can track progress.
  5. Social Impact Assessment: Consider the social impacts of your business, such as labor practices, community involvement, diversity and inclusion, and human rights issues.
  6. Economic Impact Assessment: Review your company’s economic sustainability, including your business model, financial health, and risk management practices.
  7. Sustainability Strategies and Actions: Outline specific strategies and actions your business will take to achieve its sustainability goals. This could include new technologies, operational changes, partnerships, or other initiatives. You should also explain how these strategies align with your business objectives.
  8. Performance Indicators and Targets: Define clear, measurable indicators of progress towards your sustainability goals, and set specific targets for these indicators.
  9. Implementation Plan: Detail how you will implement your sustainability plan, including the roles and responsibilities of different members of your organization, any necessary training, resources required, and a timeline for implementation.
  10. Monitoring and Reporting: Describe how you will monitor progress towards your sustainability goals and how you will report this progress to stakeholders. This could include internal reporting mechanisms as well as public reporting such as sustainability reports or disclosures to investors.
  11. Review and Continuous Improvement: Plan for regular reviews of your sustainability plan to assess progress and make necessary adjustments. This should be a dynamic process that allows for continuous improvement.
  12. Risk and Opportunity Assessment: Lastly, it’s important to identify any potential risks and opportunities associated with your sustainability plan. This will help you anticipate any challenges and maximize the benefits of your sustainability efforts.

Remember, sustainability is about the long term, so your plan should be designed with this in mind. It should be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances and should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it remains effective and relevant. Measuring non-financial items in a business plan is crucial as it provides insight into aspects of the business that, while not directly tied to financial performance, can significantly impact the overall health and sustainability of the business. Therefore, tracking them can provide valuable insights for decision-making and strategy development.

How to transfer CO2e Emissions into costs or benefits in a business plan

Transferring CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions into costs or benefits in a business plan can help businesses understand the financial implications of their environmental footprint and support decision-making processes. Here’s how you can do this:

  • Carbon Pricing: Assign a price per metric ton of CO2e emitted, which can be based on carbon markets, carbon taxes, or internal carbon pricing (if your company has set one). Carbon pricing mechanisms vary by region, so research the applicable rates in your area.
  • Calculate CO2e Emissions: Estimate your company’s annual CO2e emissions by considering direct emissions (Scope 1), indirect emissions from purchased energy (Scope 2), and other indirect emissions from the value chain (Scope 3). You can use emission factors provided by organizations like the IPCC, EPA, or other regional authorities to estimate emissions for various activities.
  • Monetize Emissions: Multiply the total CO2e emissions by the carbon price per metric ton to determine the total cost of your emissions. This monetized value represents the financial risk associated with your emissions and can be incorporated into your business plan.
  • Evaluate Reduction Strategies: Identify potential emission reduction strategies, such as energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy adoption, or waste reduction initiatives. Estimate the cost of implementing these strategies and the potential reduction in CO2e emissions.
  • Calculate Cost Savings and Benefits: Assess the financial benefits of implementing emission reduction strategies by considering factors such as operational cost savings, reduced carbon pricing liability, and potential revenue from carbon credits or renewable energy certificates. Compare these benefits to the costs of implementation to determine the return on investment (ROI) for each strategy.
  • Incorporate Costs and Benefits into the Business Plan: Integrate the monetized costs and benefits of CO2e emissions and reduction strategies into the financial projections and risk assessments of your business plan. This can help you make informed decisions about which strategies to prioritize and how they will impact your bottom line.
  • Highlight Non-financial Benefits: While monetizing CO2e emissions is important, it’s also crucial to consider non-financial benefits such as enhanced brand reputation, improved employee morale, and reduced regulatory risk. Incorporate these qualitative benefits into your business plan to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the value of emission reduction initiatives.

By quantifying the costs and benefits associated with CO2e emissions and reduction strategies, businesses can make more informed decisions about their environmental impact and incorporate sustainability considerations into their overall business strategy.

Governance-related risks refer to the potential pitfalls associated with the way a business is managed and controlled. These can include regulatory compliance, ethical conduct, transparency, decision-making processes, board effectiveness, and shareholder relations, among others. Translating governance risks into costs and benefits within a business plan can be complex due to the largely qualitative nature of these risks. However, it’s possible to approximate and project potential financial impacts. Here’s how you can approach this:

  • Identify Governance Risks: Start by identifying the key governance risks your business faces. These might include regulatory non-compliance, lack of transparency, poor decision-making processes, or ineffective board leadership.
  • Quantify Potential Costs: For each risk, estimate the potential cost if that risk were to materialize. This could be in the form of fines for non-compliance, loss of business due to reputational damage, increased cost of capital due to investor mistrust, or loss of productivity due to poor decision-making.
  • Evaluate Mitigation Strategies: Identify strategies to mitigate each governance risk. These might include improving compliance systems, enhancing transparency, implementing better decision-making processes, or investing in board training and development.
  • Calculate Implementation Costs: Estimate the cost of implementing each mitigation strategy. This could include direct costs like investment in new systems or training, as well as indirect costs like time and resources.
  • Assess Potential Benefits: For each mitigation strategy, assess the potential benefits. These might include reduced likelihood of fines, improved reputation, lower cost of capital, or increased productivity.
  • Incorporate Costs and Benefits into the Business Plan: Integrate the potential costs and benefits of governance risks and their mitigation strategies into your business plan. This should inform your risk management strategy, financial projections, and operational planning.
  • Highlight Non-financial Benefits: Beyond direct financial impacts, good governance practices can offer significant non-financial benefits. These might include improved stakeholder relationships, increased trust and credibility, and better strategic decision-making. Although these benefits may be harder to quantify, they should still be incorporated into your business plan as they can significantly impact your business’s long-term success.

By integrating governance risks into your business planning, you can proactively manage these risks and make more informed decisions about your governance structures and practices. Remember, good governance isn’t just about avoiding risk—it’s also about creating value for your business and its stakeholders.

How to transfer social topics into costs and benefits in a business plan

Social topics, also known as social factors or social impacts, refer to the effects that a business’s activities have on its stakeholders, including employees, customers, communities, and society at large. They encompass a wide range of issues, including labor practices, human rights, health and safety, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement. Incorporating social topics into the costs and benefits of a business plan can provide a more comprehensive understanding of a business’s societal impacts and their potential financial implications. Here’s how you can approach this:

  • Identify Key Social Topics: Identify the social topics that are most relevant to your business. These might be determined by your industry, geography, stakeholder expectations, or other factors.
  • Quantify Potential Costs: For each social topic, estimate the potential costs if the associated risks materialize. For example, poor labor practices could lead to increased turnover, decreased productivity, or fines and lawsuits. Similarly, a lack of diversity and inclusion could lead to missed market opportunities, reputational damage, or regulatory penalties.
  • Evaluate Mitigation or Improvement Strategies: Identify strategies to mitigate social risks or improve social performance. This could include investing in employee training and development, implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives, improving health and safety practices, or engaging more actively with local communities.
  • Calculate Implementation Costs: Estimate the cost of implementing each strategy. This could include direct costs like investment in new programs or initiatives, as well as indirect costs like time and resources.
  • Assess Potential Benefits: For each strategy, assess the potential benefits. Improved social performance can lead to a range of benefits, such as increased employee engagement and productivity, enhanced brand reputation, improved customer loyalty, and stronger community relations. Some of these benefits may result in direct financial gains, while others may contribute to long-term value creation.
  • Incorporate Costs and Benefits into the Business Plan: Integrate the potential costs and benefits of social topics and their mitigation or improvement strategies into your business plan. This should inform your financial projections, operational planning, and strategic decision-making.
  • Highlight Non-financial Benefits: In addition to the financial impacts, consider the non-financial benefits of addressing social topics. These can include enhanced stakeholder relationships, improved risk management, and alignment with societal expectations and trends. While these benefits may be harder to quantify, they can significantly contribute to your business’s long-term success and sustainability.

By integrating social topics into your business planning, you can proactively manage social risks, leverage social opportunities, and contribute to societal well-being while also enhancing your business’s performance and value creation.


Finally, by integrating double materiality into your sustainability business plan, you can ensure that you’re considering both the impacts of ESG factors on your company and the impacts of your company on society and the environment. This can help you manage risks, leverage opportunities, and contribute to sustainable development while also enhancing your company’s performance and value creation. Contact us to prepare your Sustainability Business Plan.

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Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Europe, focusing on top-management consultancy, projectmanagement, corporate reporting and fundingsupport. Dr. Georg Tichy is also trainer, lecturer at university and advisor on current economic issues. Contact me or Book a MeetingView Author posts