The hard part: Operationalizing Sustainability

“Operationalizing sustainability”. That’s the hard part. A new survey of US ESG/EHS leaders found that their biggest successes have been setting goals and targets (especially GHGs). The biggest challenge?  Getting the resources and support to meet those goals, turning ambition into action.

Respondents pointed to key steps that need to be taken BEFORE locking into corporate ESG goals:

  • Engage with the people who have to implement those goals.
  • Ensure senior-level support for reaching goals, not just setting them.
  • Get the funding.
  • Make sure the technology exists and works.
  • Have a clear path, with a road map to reaching your targets.
  • Set clear accountability for the relentless follow-up it takes to make change happen.

There may be a real opportunity to help operationalize sustainability: leverage EHS experience and leaders. Nearly 40% of survey respondents said ESG and EHS are in separate groups in their company, who coordinate loosely or have very little connection – even though EHS may have some of the critical skills and networks to operationalize sustainability goals.

Full disclosure: Some of the survey questions emerged from – and will feed back into — an intriguing work group I lead for GEMI. The “Emerging Sustainability Leadership” project kicked off in 2021 to help sustainability leaders face the increasing pressures on their companies and roles, and develop capabilities required to lead sustainable business into the future.  As the project continues into 2022, it includes both ESG and EHS leaders (and some with both responsibilities), providing unique perspective on the challenges of operationalizing sustainability.

[Opinions in this blog are solely those of Scott Nadler. They do not necessarily represent views of Nadler Strategy’s clients or partners, or those cited in the post. To share this blog, see additional posts on Scott’s blog or subscribe please go to]

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