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What is Sustainability Planning?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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Sustainability planning is a form of long term business planning focused on environmental issues associated with doing business. It involves both thinking about how to do business in an environmentally friendly way in the long term, and developing a plan for taking advantage of environmental trends to position a business in the market. Businesses of all forms and sizes can take advantage of sustainability planning and there are a number of extensive guidebooks put out by government agencies and environmental organizations to guide businesses through this process.

During sustainability planning, people identify environmental topics of interest and relevance to the mission and function of a business. Planning includes finding ways to do business in ways that will be more environmentally sustainable to keep the business functional and addressing issues like immediate and hidden costs associated with doing business. For example, changing an office over to a paperless scheme will be expensive in the short term because of software and equipment expenses, but in the long term will cut down on costs for paper, ink, and related supplies. In addition, it will allow the business to market itself as environmentally friendly and progressive, two traits consumers may look for.

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Developing long-term business strategies requires thinking about possibilities for expansion, possible directions in which to take a business over the course of its lifetime, and considering potential regulations and changes in the market climate. Sustainability planning includes planning ahead for changes that are likely to occur, on the basis of existing information and concerns. A business in a polluting industry may see signs that regulations are going to be tightened, and take steps to anticipate and meet those regulations before they occur to be ahead of the curve, for instance.

Businesses can also think about opportunities available in the eco-friendly business market. Sustainability planning can include identifying new market sectors and thinking about ways to take advantage of them. Companies with flexibility when it comes to developing new products and services are more likely to predict market needs and be in a position to meet them than businesses that react to changing market forces and scramble for a foot hold.

Business consultants who specialize in sustainability planning are available to assist businesses with the development and implementation of sustainable practices. It is also possible for businesses to appoint a group internally to work on sustainability projects, set targets, monitor progress, and help other departments in the business meet the goals set by the group. Consumers often expect large companies in particular to have a department dedicated to environmental responsibility, and such a group can be good public relations for a business, as well as helping the business thrive in the long term.

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