goalsWelcome to the New Year! Let’s make it a year fuelled by game-changing resolutions. How do we do that? Well, as individuals we determine our priorities, we make sure they are meaningful and we identify the behaviours we would like to change. To be successful, we set clear goals and targets. And to make sure we achieve them, we tell somebody else – it’s a great way to hold ourselves accountable.

For businesses, the steps are not much different. But you might be surprised by the breadth and scope of the goals and commitments some large companies are publicly setting for themselves. Recently I tracked a new trend where large companies set bold and visionary game-changing targets. (See my list of companies below.)

For the most part, these companies are based in Europe in the food and retail sectors. They have set short-term and long-term targets. They have developed holistic, all-encompassing plans. They have used stakeholder input to help identify their key sustainability impacts and opportunities. They have committed to act beyond their own operations, and the foreseeable future, to become world-class sustainability leaders in their region and sector. They recognize they don’t have all the answers and that solutions may not exist yet. They have extensive plans to engage their supply chain (including downstream actors) in their sustainability efforts. They talk about decoupling growth from their impacts. They hope to not only reduce their environmental footprint, but to restore biodiversity, natural resources and habitats and to tackle world poverty. For the most part their targets are measurable, time-bound and cover the full range of social, environmental and economic impacts. To me, these are game-changing resolutions!

Usually introduced by the CEO, the plans cover the following common impact areas:

  • Environment: Carbon, energy, waste, packaging and water (including impacts from their own operations and those of customers and suppliers); toxins and green building standards.
  • Employees: Safety, health and wellness and retention; sustainability awareness and engagement; and hiring locally disadvantaged.
  • Products: A range of topics including local, fair trade and third-party certifications.
  • Community: Involvement, job creation and poverty eradication.

Other notable targets and commitments are:

  • Raise customer awareness regarding sustainability issues and create opportunities to help customers make a difference.
  • Influence their industry and advance a sustainability culture within their operations.
  • Campaign and advocate on sustainability issues.
  • Address young people’s issues, customer accessibility and co-operative development.

And speaking of co-operatives, you may recall that one of my clients, The Co-operators, was recognized as the top corporate citizen in Canada by Corporate Knights last June. As well, last year the board approved a number of measurable four-year targets for their sustainability strategy. They set targets in the areas of employees and agents, operations, clients and products, governance, investments, advocacy and their relationships. Their 2011 sustainability report, to be released in May, will have more details. Stay tuned.

The list of the companies I’ve been tracking follows. A good New Year’s resolution would be to keep an eye on their progress as you chart your own.

Here’s to a game-changing 2012!

Marks & Spencer
Plan A
180 commitments
logo-marksspencer
Unilever
Sustainable Living Plan
50 targets
logo-unilever
Sainsbury’s
20 by 20 Sustainability Plan
20 targets
logo-sainsbury
Coca-Cola Enterprises
Our Sustainability Plan
17 targets
logo-cocacola
The Co-operative Group
Ethical Operating Plan
47 targets
logo-cooperative
Cascades
Sustainable Development Plan
18 targets
logo-cascades

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