Environment Business Tools

9 Mar 2020

There has recently been a number of public announcements of companies setting bold energy targets and pledging major action on climate change. Today, Telstra became the latest big company to announce ambitious climate change goals.  They have set a goal to be carbon neutral from this year, enabling 100% renewable energy by 2025, and reducing absolute emissions 50% by 2030. Their announcement follows similar Net Zero announcements from by BHP, Rio Tinto, Atlassian, and Mirvac to name a few. Climate Action is but one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and though the publicised actions on climate are to be commended, I would like to see companies sharing their pledges on some of the other SDGs.

There are a variety of management tools and techniques to aid decision making in this regard. These tools distil complex issues into simple actionable elements. The tools enable decision makers to enter into a common understanding of the organization’s needs, and from this viewpoint, they can make informed decisions to meet those needs. An example of an already well known and well used tool of this type is Risk Assessment.

Traditional decision-making tools employed to make commercial decisions are typically under-used and under-valued in environmental and sustainability management. Though some may be dated, I believe that some tools of this type, such as those highlighted below, can help business operationalize the SDGs and better understand their potential contribution to them.

Further information on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be found here.

 Benchmarking

Benchmarks can either come from within the company by comparing departments and business units, or can come in externally, i.e. from the competition, industry standards, or industry best practice. Sector leaders can inspire copycat action. Much like in society, highlighting what actions others are doing tends to increase what others consider achievable. Benchmarking is a simple yet effective tool for companies to stay ahead of, or within touching distance of the competition.

Further information on Benchmarking can be found here.

 SWOT Analysis

This a popular strategic planning technique to analyse the internal factors of Strengths and Weakness; and the external factors of Opportunities and Threats upon a company. An environmental and sustainability SWOT can encourage teams and decision makers to think about the long-term sustainability challenges (like climate change, natural resource scarcity, or changing public and regulatory sentiment) that could create significant business risks or opportunities in the years ahead.

Further information on SWOT analysis can be found here.

PESTLE

PESTLE analysis and its other derivatives (see link) is similar to a SWOT analysis, but this time only those external factors that impact a business are considered. The aim of the analysis, is to address and ultimately reduce the potential threats to an organization. PESTLE stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental. PESTLE analysis may highlight threats such as government policy changes, altered public perceptions and sentiment, cost of renewables, and water availability for example. PESTLE can easily be tailored toward a strictly environmental or sustainability analysis tool to enlighten, motivate and drive a company and its decision makers — particularly those with limited knowledge of environmental issues or corporate sustainability, into action.

Further information on PESTLE analysis can be found here.

 Business Process Modelling

Business Process Modelling is all about improvement. It is often used to analyse the gaps between an existing process and a future process that the business wishes to implement. Usually, BPM is represented in a diagrammatic way where process, decisions, and information are represented as a sequential workflow. It could be applied in an environmental management context to assess more environmentally friendly process options, or the use of a new technology to minimise environmental risk.  BPM could make complex business analysis more straightforward, allowing decision makers of varying backgrounds to more easily visualize the sequential steps of the new process, thereby improving buy-in and support for proposed changes.

Further information on BPM can be found here.

Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA)

Cost-Benefit Analysis (sometimes called Benefit-Cost Analysis) involves calculating the costs associated with a course of action and then comparing these with the benefits that come from its implementation. The results of the analysis are often expressed as a payback period, i.e. the time it takes for benefits to repay costs. Environmental and sustainability cost-benefit analysis appraises projects that have the specific aim of environmental and societal improvement or the mitigation of risk. That said, sustainability projects should never be reduced solely to a monetary value. Other factors such as responsibility, resource use, or social and heritage issues for example. should be given due consideration. Nonetheless, CBA is ideal for making quick and simple financial decisions.

Further information on CBA can be found here.

Six Hats (Lateral Thinking)

Six Hats is a technique created by Edward De Bono in 1985. It is a type of group brainstorming activity where all participants are focused on a particular thought pattern at the same time. The group is directed to think within a particular context (using coloured hats as a symbol of the thinking style), moving through each hat in sequence. It is meant to release the group from narrow thinking, enable open minded ideas, and enhance the quality of ideas, without judgement and reduced conflict. It can be applied successfully to root cause analysis as well. Every time that I have been involved with this approach (in environment and sustainability discussions) I am amazed at the unique ideas and creative solutions that emerge.

Further information on Six Hats can be found here.

These are only a few of the available business analysis tools that might be deployed in an environmental management and sustainability framework. New tools also emerge regularly and I believe that if we are creative enough, many of them can be commandeered and manipulated to suit a multitude of purposes.

Do you have experience utilising these types of tools? I’d love to hear how they have worked for you and in what context at LandTrack Systems’ upcoming Environmental Essentials Training Course on 19th and 20th March. Book Now