Steps for SME success

Running a sustainable business is more important than ever in today’s economy. Effectively managing sustainability risks and opportunities can build resilience, improve competitive advantage and unlock new opportunities for growth. Use the checklist below to build sustainability management into your business or to improve what you already have in place.

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Step 1 

Get buy-in

Is the company leadership onside?

  • Gather buy-in from the business owner(s) and other relevant leaders (such as key management or the board, if you have one) to create a dedicated sustainability function. 
  • Secure budget, if needed.


We recommend the following resources:



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Step 2 

Assign responsibility

Who will lead the company’s sustainability journey?

  • Appoint an individual or team to manage and oversee sustainability initiatives in your business. This person will have clear ownership of your company’s sustainability initiatives, be responsible for ensuring goals and objectives are met, and ensure sustainability is integrated into business decisions and strategies.


We recommend the following resources:



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Step 3 

Determine the issues that matter most

What sustainability topics do your stakeholders most care about? Which are most relevant to your business and its long-term success?

  • Conduct research to identify and prioritize the sustainability issues that matter most to your business and stakeholders. This can be done informally, for example, through a quick internet search or discussions with internal and/or external stakeholders. Many larger companies do a more formal “materiality assessment” in which they conduct extensive research and survey their stakeholders.
  • Stay on top of evolving issues and stakeholder expectations to ensure your company stays current with changing times. 



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Step 4

Develop a robust sustainability program

What plans, strategies and systems will be adopted to build a more sustainable business?

  • Consider creating a sustainability policy that formalizes your company commitment. 
  • Develop a sustainability strategy or road map. It should reflect the results of your research (see previous point) and focus on the sustainability issues most relevant to your business. The strategy should outline priorities and goals, along with the actions you’ll take to achieve them. It should also align with your overall business goals, so sustainability becomes integral to your growth and success.  
  • Start small. Sustainability covers a wide area, so for SMEs, it’s best to focus on the most important sustainability impacts of your business. For example, define two or three priorities and scale up, depending on resources and capacity. Your sustainability program should evolve and grow with your business.  
  • Educate your team about your sustainability commitments and program. Make them aware of any new roles and responsibilities. 


We recommend the following resources:



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Step 5

Create governance structure and oversight

How will you formalize management of sustainability in your business? This step is critical to effectively manage environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, opportunities and performance.

  • To strengthen your sustainability management, brainstorm ideas to develop a formal sustainability structure and determine where internal reporting and oversight are most needed. This process will involve understanding ESG risks and opportunities most pertinent to your business, industry and sector.  
  • Depending on the size of your company, consider forming a sustainability committee, or adding responsibilities to existing committees. Employees from various areas of the business should be included to ensure diverse perspectives are incorporated. 
  • Create a document that describes formal roles and responsibilities related to sustainability and how employees will work together on sustainability initiatives. The document can be related to sustainability overall, or a specific dimension of ESG strategy.  


We recommend the following resources:



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Step 6

Track and communicate your progress

How will you monitor and measure your headway?

  • Determine appropriate performance indicators to use and set objectives.
  • Establish a baseline and start tracking your progress towards your goals.  
  • Formalize a reporting process (monthly, quarterly or annually) to present leadership with results on sustainability performance. 
  • Communicate your progress to employees and other interested stakeholders. More and more stakeholders expect businesses to disclose their specific sustainability actions and performance. 


We recommend the following resources:


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Date modified: 2024-01-23