7 ways industry associations can help members improve their sustainability performance

Published on September 28, 2013

A series – How to build industry association sustainability programs
Part 2 of 6

sustain-industries-2Smart companies realize they can’t do it alone. As they advance along the sustainability path driven by market and regulatory pressures, they realize their success depends on collaborative industry action. They do not have the resources, expertise or influence to catalyze the supplier or customer improvements necessary to reduce their sustainability impacts and dependencies.

So where do they turn for leadership and collective action on the big pan-industry issues? To their industry associations.

Forward-thinking associations already know that the future of corporate social responsibility and sustainability lies in collective action. Others need to better understand how they can help their member companies to manage the risks and seize the opportunities of global sustainability mega-forces that are changing forever the rules of the game.

From research I conducted on industry associations and profiled in my Guide to Sustainable Industry Associations here are:

Seven ways industry associations can help members improve their sustainability performance

1. Provide information and education on sustainability trends. Conduct research on sustainability mega-trends and the impacts of your sector on environment and society. Analyze how they might affect your members. Act as a clearing house and recommend progressive actions that will help your sector advance along the sustainability continuum. Frame the sustainability business case and value proposition for member sustainability programming.

2. Provide forums for discussion and collaboration. Create discussion opportunities for the sector to explore sustainability and CSR trends. Help the sector to identify the important trends and the sector’s response. Initiate collaborative action for the sector.

3. Develop programs to continuously improve performance and raise sector standards. Members often need checklists, guidelines, metrics, targets and other tools to enhance their performance. A common set of benchmarks can help members evaluate themselves against their peers. Codes of practice can provide phased approaches to improved performance and set a minimum performance standard for the sector.

4. Act as cheerleader. Encourage members to move forward. Support them with awards and rewards. Enable their success.

5. Facilitate stakeholder feedback. Create a common platform for engaging stakeholders on top issues and addressing stakeholder priorities and concerns. Seek stakeholder input into the development of programs, guidelines and standards.

6. Promote accountability of industry to society. Report on sector progress. Enhance the sector’s accountability and transparency to the public to build legitimacy. Communicate the sector’s sustainability accomplishments and achievements to stakeholders.

7. Advance sustainability solutions in society. Identify opportunities to work with other sector associations or governments on critical sustainability issues faced by society. Enable cross pollination with other industry groups on sustainability performance and identify sectors that have common sustainability interests and work on joint projects together. Partner with governments, civil society and others to address shared interests and opportunities on behalf of the industry.

What you can do

Speak up! Send the Industry Association Roadmap to Sustainability, with an encouraging note, to your industry association representative. Or send it to an association you think needs help to build a more sustainable industry.

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