Building an effective environmental strategy

In recent years, discussions around Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters have gained prominence within organisations. Driven by a global push for sustainability and responsible business practices, the management of ESG-related issues has become increasingly intertwined with a business’s overall performance.

From an environmental perspective, the urgency of the climate crisis has pushed ESG issues to the forefront of business agendas, with companies facing increasing demands to disclose their environmental impact from consumers, investors and employees alike. This has, in turn, made the reporting of environmental metrics, such as scope 1-3 emissions, a critical process that enables organisations to provide clear, comparable data about their environmental performance.

Despite the evident increase in environmental awareness and growing external pressure for change, many organisations may feel hesitant to put a strategy in place due to concerns about a lack of sufficient environmental knowledge or expertise. Developing a full understanding of environmental issues requires specialist knowledge of a raft of complex and often scientific concepts, as well as navigating a wave of reporting requirements which encompass environmental disclosures.

However, in an era where more and more businesses are being scrutinised for their sustainability efforts, it is essential for organisation’s to address these issues and overcome any reservations they might have. This is where building an effective environmental strategy becomes crucial, as doing so will allow an organisation to map out key areas of concern, implement the required management systems and plan mitigation steps accordingly. 

Key steps to build an effective environmental strategy 

Appoint a designated environmental manager

The starting point for any business looking to create an effective environmental strategy is to appoint an appropriate senior manager to handle the organisation’s environmental responsibilities. This step ensures there is consistent oversight of the organisation’s operations and its impact on environmental goals.

When selecting who this will be, it is important to ensure that the individual has adequate remit, resources and training to take on such a role. Without these, it is unlikely that the subsequent strategy will be sufficient to have the impact required. It is worth noting that this role can, and probably should, be proportionate to the size and operations of the business. 

For instance, the role’s scope and responsibilities will vary significantly in a company of 20-30 people when compared to a company with 500+ members of staff. This individual should also take time to have sufficient interactions with other departments and managers, especially those which interplay with key environmental topics like human rights, to ensure that the business as a whole is working towards the same goal.  

Establish a formal environmental policy 

When developing a strategy that outlines how your organisation is going to prepare and deal with environmental concerns, it is essential to demonstrate your organisation’s overall stance on the environment. The most effective way to do this is by establishing a formal environmental policy. This policy should be specific to your organisation, reflecting relevant and focused commitments.

While there is no set standard for what this policy can include, it should, at a minimum, contain clearly defined commitments to improving environmental performance and complying with environmental legislation. It may also be tempting to put some generic statements together, however, this can be perceived as greenwashing – which refers to unsubstantiated, misleading, or incomplete assertions regarding a company’s environmental performance – and may actually do more harm than good. Organisations are held accountable for the commitments they make, so it is important to tailor this policy to your organisation’s specific activities, serving as a realistic and achievable reflection of your organisation’s dedication to reducing environmental impacts.

Conduct a materiality assessment

Developing an environmental strategy from scratch can be a daunting task. For example, while organisations may find it relatively easy to state an intention to improve their environmental performance, the decision of which activities to prioritise and where to allocate resources is an entirely different challenge. Conducting a materiality assessment is an essential first step to get this right. It enables an organisation to consider which environmental, social and governance impacts it may be exposed to, and which environmental, social and governance impacts it may itself be creating. By identifying which environmental topics are of greatest relevance and importance to your organisation’s operations within the analysis of all other material ESG topics, businesses can effectively prioritise the actions that need to be taken and the order in which to take them.

Moreover, using a materiality assessment to inform your strategy will avoid the risk of merely focusing on the ‘mainstream’ environmental topics, such as greenhouse gas emissions, when tackling other less ‘notable’ areas may actually have far greater impacts on the environment and business. Whether you conduct this assessment in-house or seek expert assistance, a materiality assessment is a crucial step in building an effective environmental strategy that should not be overlooked.

Set clear targets for effective environmental management

Establishing clear, demonstrable targets for the material environmental topics identified is essential to keeping your environmental strategy on track. This is crucial for providing a clear pathway to address the topics identified in the materiality assessment, ensuring long term accountability for each priority area. Targets should be quantifiable, measurable and science-based, with realistic baselines and timelines for your organisation. 

When considering the plans to reach these targets, it is important to factor in the allocation of resources and responsibilities that will be required over time. This approach will allow for any amendments to take place if needed.

Disseminate the environmental strategy throughout the organisation 

For an environmental strategy to be truly effective, it should be integrated at every level of the company. This ensures engagement with the strategy by stakeholders throughout the organisation, especially for those with oversight of the operations that have the greatest impact.

One way in which this can be achieved is by conducting training for employees on environmental topics relevant to the organisation’s operations, providing context for why the business is taking steps to enact change and the importance of such change taking place. It is also important to engage relevant business partners, including suppliers and customers, informing them about the steps your business is taking to improve environmental performance. It is also vital to ensure accuracy and avoid the temptation to focus solely on environmental positives while ignoring any negative impacts not being addressed.

Lastly, when dispersing your strategy throughout varying levels of the organisation, it is important to conduct appropriate due diligence on third parties, including suppliers. Adding requirements to ensure that these third parties meet the organisation’s environmental standards can help prevent the business from outsourcing its environmental impact while keeping all aspects of the supply chain aligned with the new strategy.

Monitor and update the environmental strategy periodically

While the creation of an environmental strategy is a great accomplishment for any organisation, for those truly invested in addressing their environmental impacts, this should only be the beginning. As legislation and public opinion on protecting the environment constantly evolve, so too should the strategy.

Monitoring and periodically updating it ensures continuous improvement and prevents your policy falling behind or becoming ‘outdated’. Reviewing the policy and commitments against applicable global environmental standards and legislation is key to this process. Businesses should also regularly report on their environmental performance to the board of directors, helping to reinforce the progress made and prepare for future advancements. Doing so also strengthens the organisation’s top-level commitment messaging and helps embeds environmental considerations into its business operations.


Building an effective environment strategy requires the implementation of comprehensive systems to manage and address environmental considerations, resulting in positive outcomes for both the organisation and the environment.

To do so, organisations should set up dedicated governance structures to oversee the strategy, establish a robust policy that outlines all commitments and prioritise the topics with the greatest material impact. Moreover, organisations should try to engage all business partners and stakeholders in the objective of meeting their environmental commitments, setting measurable targets and conducting continuous reviews of performance to ensure that the actions being taken are as effective as possible.

In today’s changing world, organisations looking to develop an environmental strategy can often benefit from seeking support from environmental experts who possess specialised expertise and knowledge that can help businesses navigate complex environmental challenges. GoodCorporation offers a comprehensive environmental framework to help organisations in developing and maintaining an effective environmental strategy. Providing a set of responsible practices and procedures, this framework can help improve the robustness of any organisation’s environmental performance management, offering guidance to support organisations in setting targets, improving environmental performance and meeting existing and emerging reporting requirements.