The PSC news-insights: entry

12/07/2023
Insights

Our Three Ingredients for a Successful Environmental Sustainability Plan in the Public Sector

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that to avert catastrophic health impacts, the world must limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C.

However, even in the most optimistic scenarios, we are a long way off track to achieving this. As acting on climate change becomes increasingly urgent, and public sector organisations increasingly consider how they can serve the public good beyond their core function, it behoves public sector organisations to lead by example in this transition to net zero.

Crafting a robust and ambitious environmental sustainability plan is vital for public sector organisations to reduce their environmental impact. However, many plans fall short in translating ideas into action, failing to make a substantial difference on the ground. In this blog post, we will explore three key ingredients for a successful environmental sustainability plan in the public sector: (1) alignment with purpose and strategy, (2) embedding sustainability into teams, and (3) looking both inwards and outwards.

Our Three Ingredients for a Successful Environmental Sustainability Plan in the Public Sector

1.    Alignment with Purpose and Strategy

To ensure the success of an environmental sustainability plan, alignment with an organisation's purpose and strategy is paramount. Sustainability cannot exist as a standalone effort but must be seamlessly integrated into the core values and objectives of the organisation. Otherwise, it is often endlessly deprioritised as more immediate operational issues take precedence.

By aligning sustainability goals with the organisation's purpose, organisations can build a compelling narrative that connects environmental sustainability measures to their mission. For instance, a healthcare organisation can emphasise how tackling climate change is essential to promoting good human health. Similarly, if an organisation’s key strategic goals are to improve operational efficiency to deliver the same services at a lower cost, they can emphasise how sustainability measures such as digitising services, reducing business travel and reducing energy consumption can contribute to those goals. By linking sustainability to purpose and strategy, organisations can therefore gain buy-in and support for sustainability efforts throughout the organisation.

2.    Embedding Sustainability into Teams

Embedding sustainability into teams is the second crucial ingredient for a successful environmental sustainability plan. It is not enough to have a plan on paper; sustainability must be ingrained in the fabric of an organisation through the active involvement of teams. This requires both establishing the right structure for the sustainability programme and building sustainability into organisational culture.

Rather than creating often isolated sustainability leads or teams, successful programmes integrate sustainability initiatives into existing teams, ensuring the programme has the right mix of knowledge and authority to make change throughout the organisation. Additionally, successful programmes foster a culture where every individual feels responsible for the environmental impact of their team and actively seeks opportunities for improvement. Organisations can achieve this by providing education on sustainability topics or encouraging employee engagement through initiatives like green teams or sustainability champions. By embedding sustainability into teams and culture, organisations can therefore (a) ensure their sustainability programme is well-equipped to deliver change and (b) foster continuous improvement throughout their teams.

3.    Looking Both Inwards and Outwards

The third ingredient for a successful environmental sustainability plan is looking both inwards and outwards. While focusing on reducing environmental impact from your internal operations is crucial, organisations should also consider their broader impact and influence. Looking inwards involves assessing the organisation's environmental footprint across various areas such as carbon emissions, waste generation and water consumption, before making targeted efforts to reduce environmental impact. Simultaneously, looking outwards involves considering the organisation's influence beyond its immediate operations. This entails collaborating with suppliers to promote sustainable practices, partnering with other organisations for systemic change, and advocating for policy reforms. By extending the scope of impact, organisations can contribute to broader sustainability efforts and leverage collective action for a greener future.

Conclusion

A successful environmental sustainability plan in the public sector hinges on three crucial ingredients: alignment with purpose and strategy, embedding sustainability into teams, and looking both inwards and outwards. By aligning sustainability goals with an organisation's purpose and strategy, organisations can build engagement and motivation among stakeholders. Embedding sustainability into teams ensures the programme has the knowledge and authority to act, while nurturing a culture of responsibility and ownership conducive to continuous improvement. Lastly, looking both inwards and outwards ensures a comprehensive approach that addresses both internal operations and has broader impact. By incorporating these three ingredients, the public sector can play a vital role in creating a sustainable future for our planet.

 

The PSC can support public sector organisations in developing more effective Environmental Sustainability Plans, drawing on our expertise in environmental reporting, organisational strategy, stakeholder engagement and capability building. If you would like to discuss any of the matters in this blog post further, please get in touch with charlotte.bambridge@thepsc.co.uk.

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