Sustainability managers have a lot to think about, especially because sustainability programs tend to be new initiatives for many organizations. It’s easy to feel as though you’re in constant “sink or swim” mode. There can be times where the path forward isn’t clear. How are you able to champion your wins? Is there enough communication with upper management? Should you be thinking about revisiting your guiding goals and principles?
These broader issues are always important to keep in mind, yet the day-to-day is just as important to drive the successes of a program. There are 6 questions that sustainability managers must ask themselves to help focus their work as soon as they sit down at their desks.
1. What are our active projects?
In most cases, answering this question should be a no-brainer. What are you actually working on improving in your organization? However, sometimes remembering all the balls in the air can be a challenge, especially as projects get put on-hold, moved up, or even split into smaller, bite-sized projects. Sustainability managers should have a system to keep track of their projects and status, be it a master spreadsheet or an online tool. It is worth taking 15-20 minutes each morning to review the list and reacquaint yourself with each project’s status to help better plan out a day.
2. What projects have steps that need to be taken now?
Due dates drive sustainability projects just like any other work that needs to get done. If you’ve spent the time thinking through your list of projects, then the ones with more pressing action items likely jumped out already. Did you want to get that list of approved chemicals to your cleaner so that green cleaning practices can be implemented ASAP? Was there employee education to craft around the new recycling system so that the changes made to your collection will be successful from the start? It’s up to you how to juggle each step, but let the urgency guide what you focus on first.
3. What projects have steps that require resources or feedback?
While some projects have tasks you can complete right away, others will take a little more time because they are more involved, or reliant on others to complete. If there’s any request for resources that you need to make to push a project forward, it should be considered sooner, even if the project itself is longer-term. This way, you won’t be stuck down the road waiting when you’re further along with the project’s other components.
4. Do any project leaders need a reminder?
Sustainability managers know how to delegate, but often times those put in charge of a sustainability project can let it slide off their radar. If there’s a project that hasn’t seen much progress lately, it’s a good time to reach out to the project leader and check in on how they’re doing with the next steps. Often a quick, friendly nudge is all it takes.
5. Are there any goal deadlines or meetings to prepare for?
Though urgent tasks do need consideration, it’s important to keep upcoming events in mind. For instance, if there’s a presentation to management coming up, it might be better to prioritize the projects where you can make tangible progress in the time you have. Posting sustainability information on your public facing website is likely going to make a bigger impression than finally choosing between two hydration station vendors. This is also where sustainability goals are important to keep in mind, since those target dates can often recede into out of sight, out of mind. If it was a goal to adopt workforce wellness policies with a calendar year, make sure that project is staying on track more than the ones without a strict timeframe, such as a general reduce waste goal.
6. Do we have enough/too many projects?
It’s tempting to set as ambitious a task load as possible, but pulling back to ask if the workload is reasonable may be the most important thing you do. If it feels like you’re being pulled in too many different directions, it’s probably time to stop and consider putting a project or two on hold. If it seems like you’re in more of a holding pattern, it might be time to select new projects based on the goals of your sustainability program.
A sustainability program is always going to be a work in progress, but as long as you’re able to keep your day-to-day tasks organized by asking these questions, success becomes that much easier.