Christian Arno

Measuring sustainability. Are KPIs the answer?

10 min Read
Night-time landscape of a lighthouse on a hill, shining light into a starry sky

For me, sustainability is more than a buzzword. It’s a powerful word that has finally taken its rightful place centre stage, in schools, on social media, in political discussions and in the business world.

For each one of us at Pawprint it’s becoming second nature to consider the environment in everything we do. We’re nowhere near perfect but we’re working hard to make inroads through small changes to our every-day personal and work habits. These small changes will eventually make a big difference.

As we’ve begun building out Pawprint for Business, I am delighted to say that we’re not alone, and that people and businesses around the world are starting to (or already have been) do the same.

I truly believe in the human spirit and its instinctive goodness. I know that many people, including business leaders in every sector care about the state that they will leave the planet in. This is really at the heart of Pawprint’s mission—harnessing this growing seed of awareness and building on its potential by helping businesses reduce the impact of their activities on the environment.

So how can we understand the damage we’re doing and start working towards reducing it?

Track and trace

Environmental KPIs are beacons that help us see the way. Like the strip of light on a runway, they show us where we are and where we need to be. They are, in our experience, essential to businesses that are truly committed to making change.

A set of quantifiable metrics that reflect your environmental performance in the context of achieving your wider goals will ultimately save you time and money; will drive internal innovation; strengthen investor confidence and nurture a passion for all things renewable, recyclable and green in your workplace.

The green-gauge

I’m a strong believer in businesses communicating their successes and being honest about their challenges. Transparent reporting on your environmental performance is a great way to see clearly where you can improve. Food, flying and IT can all leave a large carbon footprint, but how do you quantify them? You need a clear visual indicator of your current state of play.

How many hours do your teams fly every year? How much use does your photocopier or printer see? How many of your suppliers are trying to track and reduce their impact like you are? Make a list to coordinate your sustainability planning and establish your goals. It sounds basic but everything really is so much clearer when it’s written down. Measuring sustainability is critical in defining where you are and where you need to get to.

Where should you start looking? Being aware that almost everything you do has a carbon footprint at some level is a great place to start. Pawprint’s scientific advisor Mike Berners Lee says that it’s almost impossible to buy anything without triggering a load of carbon emissions around the global economy. But he knows and we know that you’re not going to stop buying things – and neither are we – so let’s at least educate ourselves on the worst offenders.

Sustainability KPIs – where to start? The list is long but here are some of the big hitters.

  • Business travel, including daily commuting, is one of the most obvious culprits. In a world of virtual meetings, there is hope that this area is primed for major change in the coming years – for the better.
  • Energy consumption – Get an insight into the amount of energy, including gas, electricity and water, that your business consumes and track it against previous months to establish your performance in energy efficiency and set targets for lower consumption.
  • Product recycling rate - Divide the number of products you recycle by the total number of products you sell. Multiply this number by 100 to give you a percentage which is your product recycling rate. Or you can record the amount of recycling you generate by weighing it.
  • Supply chain miles – This is a powerful indicator of how far your product is travelling before reaching its destination and the environmental impact of this journey you’re your business supplies a service, there’ll still be supply chains attached to how you deliver it. Even if you don’t have your own supply chain, you can still put pressure on the companies you buy from to look at their own.

KPIs – Tricky to track

Tracking your footprint is no easy task. You can’t see greenhouse gases and most things that cause damage take place out of sight, far down the supply chain. The exact carbon footprint of a product or process is almost impossible to quantify accurately but that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It only has to be good enough to allow people to make sensible and informed decisions.

Pawprint’s purpose

Pawprint for Business’ reporting tool offers you data on your employees' carbon footprint and is designed to empower you to measure, understand and ultimately reduce your business’ carbon impact.

The tool asks people a series of questions about their workstyle before offering advice on making reductions and awarding Pawpoints which can be spent on donations to climate-friendly charities... Live healthier, more sustainably and give to charities – win, win, win.

With the best intentions, incremental improvements in sustainability are sadly not enough. Business leaders must be bold and tackle these challenges robustly by setting ambitious KPIs and creating resilient strategies.

I passionately believe that sustainability targets are critical to the overall well being of a business. Let’s work together to peak emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, re-establish global social mobility and allow humans to coexist successfully with the biosphere.

Your goal may be imperfect or overly ambitious but set it anyway. One small step for your business can amount to a giant leap towards a sustainable world, when enough of those small steps are made around the globe.

Thinking about Pawprint for Business?

From evidence that sustainability is an existential issue for businesses, to how Pawprint delivers 360° board value, we’ve got one helluva business proposition for you.

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