What Are Your Sustainability Goals?

Sustainability. For some companies, it’s part of their mission. For others, the focus may spring from economic or market factors.  

Increasingly, corporations are realizing that a focus on sustainability has positive outcomes – improved brand image, satisfied shareholders, increased productivity – and are prioritizing sustainability efforts. Wherever you are on developing and achieving sustainability goals, we have three recommendations to put you and your goals on the right track. 

image of water droplet to indicate sustainability

First:  Define your focus and goals  

It’s not easy to define sustainability goals.  There are so many aspects to sustainability and great opportunities across your supply chain to improve sustainability.  How does sustainability fit in your overall company strategy?  Maybe sustainability is new to you, or maybe your cost-cutting efforts from the 1980s can be re-framed as sustainability. You might choose several goals to achieve over a longer period, and then just one or two focus areas for the next few years.  

Consider the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) for inspiration; 192 countries adopted these 17 interconnected goals, which were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The aim is to achieve them by 2030.  Whether your company is international, regional, or local, these goals are a great start to understanding sustainability and how your company can contribute.   

Next:  Set your targets

Prioritize your goals and deadlines to achieve them. To set these targets that best fit your strategy, and that are achievable and meaningful, consider this human-centered design framework that we use often:  Desirability, Feasibility, Viability. 

Desirability:  Do your stakeholders have a specific need that must be met in your sustainability efforts?  Will consumers purchase your product or service based on your demonstrated sustainability efforts?  Are your customers insisting on specific sustainability accomplishments in the materials you provide?  Is your board of directors looking for specific, visible sustainability efforts?  These factors may be a primary influencer in selecting the focus areas for your goals. 

Feasibility:  Are there technologies and supply chain approaches that can either help or hinder your sustainability efforts?  Knowing what technology is or isn’t available may influence your goals and targets.  

Viability:  How will the cost of your product or service be impacted?  Sustainability efforts may impact costs, require capital investment, or be influenced by regulatory requirements.  Understanding these factors should be part of setting your targets. 

Then: Achieve your goals  

Do you have the expertise, knowledge, and resources to achieve these goals?  To understand the UN SDG 2030 targets and how businesses can track their progress, the United Nations Global Compact has a free Action Manager tool.   

We’ve partnered with many clients to develop sustainability plans and understand the opportunities and challenges of these plans.  Much of our work is in support of the UN SDGs, including  

  • Goal 2: Zero Hunger.  Our client wanted to assess the viability of technology that would help smallholder farmers in both Africa and Mexico.  Using our insights approach, we recommended options to introduce their technologies to improve crop information and yield that could reduce hunger in those regions.
  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Often clients come to us for help identifying technologies to reduce their water utilization.  We uncover technologies and partners who can help our clients achieve their clean water goals.
  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.  We work with government agencies in the United States and abroad to increase technology transfer, adopt emerging technologies, and enable reskilling labor.  Often this work includes training local staff on how to scout for technologies and solve manufacturing challenges. 

Sustainability has become the responsibility of every companyWe can help you achieve your sustainability goals – from defining them to setting targets and determining the appropriate technology defining targeted approaches  



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About the author

Susan Mayer is our technical food industry leader, with great problem-solving, strategic, and communication skills. Our clients rely on her experience in product development, product lifecycle management, and public-private food industry partnerships to understand how technology, research, and the right suppliers can create innovation opportunities. How does her work with us benefit food companies? Susan believes that our human-centered design perspective makes all the difference. ‘Product developers always believe they are thinking about the consumer, but our human-centered design approach to considering technology brings an entirely different perspective.’ Susan applies her love of food science to her hobbies; she and her husband formulate and brew beer, much to the delight of their friends and neighbors. Susan has an M.S. in Food Science and a B.S. in Foods from the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a Certified Food Scientist.

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