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Wednesday, 2nd January 2019

19 New Year's resolutions for sustainability professionals in 2019

Love them or hate them, New Year's resolutions are a tool to motivate and inspire individuals to start a new calendar year with renewed focus. Here, edie has listed 19 resolutions for sustainability professionals in 2019 that will help businesses ignite a new era of leadership.

Which resolutions will you pick?

Which resolutions will you pick?

“New Year, new me”, as the saying goes, is a way for individuals everywhere to set goals aimed at improving personal health and wellbeing that inevitably last until February.

For professionals working within businesses that are already working towards long-term CSR targets, the first few days of 2019 have likely felt like business as usual. However, sustainability success stories have always been driven by raised ambitions and accelerated actions.

With this in mind, edie has highlighted 19 aspirations, including some with exclusive quotes and insight from sustainability leaders, that professionals can work towards to help drive business prosperity while alleviating some key environmental and planetary concerns.

1) Start setting a 1.5C science-based target

Late last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report warned there are only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C - beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

However, just a handful of corporates – namely, Tesco, BT, Carlsberg and Pukka Herbs – have set science-based targets aligned towards the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious pathway. The Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) will place a renewed focus on assisting businesses in setting emissions reduction goals aligned with the 1.5C ambition, so make 2019 the year your business pushes towards this pathway.

2) Help create a truly circular economy

If 2018 is likely to be remembered for anything in the sustainability sphere, it will be the relentless and much-needed phase-out of single-use plastics. The issue has raised awareness of resource use amongst the public to unprecedented levels, and now the door is open for businesses to adopt, embed and educate others on the importance of a circular economy. Fortunately, some firms are charging ahead in this area.

Speaking to edie, H&M Group’s environmental sustainability manager Cecilia Brannsten noted: “From an environmental perspective, we will continue to develop goals for our circular economy. With circularity, we will focus not only on our products but also on our non-commercial goods. After signing up to the New Plastics Economy initiative for our packaging, a big development for us will be the creation of a circular packaging strategy, for example.”

3) Set a target that you don’t know how to achieve

Whether it is striving to become net positive, aiming to source 100% renewable energy globally, or attempting to reverse climate change, more ambitious sustainability goals are being set much more frequently.

One thing that these bold targets tend to have in common is that the company setting them isn’t sure how it will reach those goals. Why not use 2019 as the moment that your business set a lofty goal that inspired its workforce to think of new ways of working.

4) Unleash innovation at a rapid scale

In a recent interview with edie, AB InBev's chief sustainability and procurement officer Tony Milikin spoke of his delight at the launch of the firm’s 100+ Accelerator innovation scheme, calling it the “most interesting and important thing we’re doing”.

AB InBev, and many other firms, have set up these types of innovation incubators to support start-ups with disruptive solutions to commercialise ideas that could accelerate sustainability actions. Even if your business doesn’t have the funds to support 100 innovations, green innovations come in all shapes and sizes, so why not introduce one to your workplace or operations this year?

5) Take a leap of faith

Investing in innovation requires confidence in that solution’s ability to deliver. A risk-averse approach is understandable but waiting for a silver bullet to emerge means the business runs the risk of becoming stagnant, potentially regressing as others around them continue to make progress. Even if all the dots are not joint up, 2019 is the year to be bold and start taking new steps.

As retailer Surfdome’s head of sustainability Adam Hall noted in a previous edie feature: “there’s a bigger threat from us not doing anything and, on that journey from not being 100% perfect, we will find 100% perfect.”

6) Collaborate to ensure sustainability is pre-competitive

Collaboration has always been a buzzword for sustainability professionals, but as the plastics problem has shown, companies – even rivals – are willing to band together to solve some of the world’s biggest issues.

You’ve likely networked with sustainability professionals from rival companies, discussing common goals and barriers in the process. Make 2019 the moment where you finally share ideas and visions with the rest of the sector to ensure no one is left behind during the low-carbon and resource-efficient transition.

7) Find new partners in unlikely places

Building on the previous point, now is the time to start talking to external organisations that you’ve not interacted with before. Is your waste stream valuable for another sector? Can your surplus energy benefit a neighbouring building?

Logistics firm UPS has a refreshing approach to this. The company is viewing technological advances as an “urban design experiment” that will make the future city cleaner and greener. As a result, the firm is much closer to electric vehicle manufacturers, utility giants and even city planners. So, get a different perspective on your goals by seeing how it benefits another sector.

8) Embed the Sustainable Development Goals

It is widely reported that action against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not matching up to ambitions and pledges. If 2019 is the last year for your company to deliver existing sustainability goals, now is the time to start examining how the Global Goals can influence and drive new long-term strategies, rather than the current approach of overlaying relevant SDGs onto targets.

Its easier said than done, so why not read up on how Bunzl Catering Supplies moved to align itself with the SDGs in a bid to maximise its positive social and environmental impact.

9) Get other departments onboard

Whether it's through boardroom backing, KPIs with a sustainability focus, or good old-fashioned conversations, sustainability professionals have to take ambitions, ideas and jargon out from one department and embed it across the entire business.

Why not set targets to meet with other departments at selected times throughout the year – the more frequent the better. From here, it’s about empathising and understanding their job objectives and highlighting how sustainability can assist them. The video below is a good place to start if your approach needs refining.