How to Create a Sustainability Strategy


How can charities and not-for-profits go about developing a sustainability or environmental strategy geared towards success? At a recent meeting in Scotland, Fit for the Future members National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Canals, National Trust and Historic Environment Scotland shared their top tips on how to make it happen.


Strong Leadership


  • Employ a member of staff who will be specifically dedicated to this work and will ensure strong leadership. As with many things, preparation is key, and establishing a strong foundation for your sustainability strategy is crucial.


Start with where you are


  • How much energy is your organisation currently using and how much are you spending on utilities across different sites or buildings? Baselining is the first step to creating a successful strategy.


  • By gathering solid data you can discover the problem areas, and build a strong case for investment. It also means you’ll be able to compare data before and after a change is made.


Top tip: Senior management buy-in is essential, and data is the way to win them over. The National Trust invested £30 million in renewable energy projects based on initial number crunching and the subsequent success of five pilot projects.


Target for Success


  • Keep the scope of your strategy tight and realistic. Set a longer timeframe for the later stages of your targets, as it’s often easier to achieve that first 80% than the final 20%.


  •  Understanding where your organisation is going is really important when setting targets. Be sure to factor in expected growth.


Monitoring is Everything


  • As well as a baseline, you will need effective ways to monitor energy use going forward.


  • Reliable energy management software will be your most important tool, enabling you to understand usage, track progress and validate your strategy and achievements.

Top Tip: If you’re new to monitoring and reporting, other organisations can help. Fit for the Future supported a 40% increase in energy monitoring and reporting among its member organisations in 2016 through a series of peer-led workshops


Find your Focus


  • Which distinct areas do you want to focus on? Waste, water, electricity?


  • The data you have collected will help you to identify which areas should be your primary focus so you can hone in and identify quick wins.

Top tip : Fit for the Future members advise that sorting out your water metering could lead to big savings, but water meters may be hard to find and understand. It’s far easier to start with electricity!


Take people with you


  • It’s not just senior managers that you need to convince. Staff engagement is going to be one of the biggest challenges, so tackle it from the beginning.


  • Involve site or building managers, and staff, in your process and plans. They will be the end-users of whatever sustainable solutions you decide to implement. These are the people who will ensure your targets are reached!


  • Knowledge is power- ensure staff members are trained so they can take ownership of projects and understand that they have permission to implement change. Curators could go on an LED course, facilities team members could learn about building management systems, cleaners could learn about green cleaning materials.


  • Identifying your Green Champions can be an effective way to spread messages and ensure your strategy is talked about and supported.

Top tip: Incentives can be an effective way to engage people. Can you link sustainability objectives to KPIs and find ways to recognise people or sites that do particularly well?


Basics Before Bling


  • ‘Eco bling’ like solar panels and hydro turbines might be sexier than LEDs and insulation, but it’s often the small things that make the biggest difference in terms of savings.


  • Fit for the Future members think a sustainability strategy should start with energy efficiency measures and staff behaviour change rather than diving straight in with installing big pieces of kit.


Communicate the Cause


  • Translate the strategy targets into something meaningful to staff and supporters by linking it to your organisation’s mission


  • Kwh and broader environmental benefits might not have as much impact as how pounds saved translate to meeting core objectives

This tally from our latest impact report is a great example of how that can work.

NT296 FFF Impact Report 2017_Pages7


  • When communicating your strategy, make sure you change the language depending on which group you are talking to. Do your audience care more about risk, money savings or PR?


  • Get your strategy out there into the public domain, and be sure to communicate it in a way that means something to them. Focus on relevance in relation to your organisation’s big-picture mission and wider policies.


Don’t Work in the Dark


  • Whatever the size and set-up of your organisation, a similar organisation will have likely been through the exact process you’re about to undertake.


  • Link-up with other organisations for inspiration and guidance on how best to go about creating a successful sustainability strategy. This is exactly what Fit for the Future is all about!


If you’re not already a member, join us to benefit from the wisdom and insight of hundreds of other sustainability professionals to create a strategy that works.

Here’s how Scottish Canals launched their first Environment Strategy with help from fellow Fit for the Future members.