How To Conduct a Simple (yet Comprehensive) Sustainability Audit

How To Conduct a Simple (yet Comprehensive) Sustainability Audit


Is your business just starting to have discussions about sustainability?

Are you trying to figure out what to do and how to get started?

If that’s the case, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

For many businesses, sustainability is still relatively new and the practical steps that a business can follow to develop and grow a sustainability program are still unclear.

But what if you could quickly and easily learn about best practices for sustainability, see which ones your business has already implemented, and identify the ones that provide areas of opportunity for you?

And what if you could use the results of that checklist to identify improvements that you could begin to make with your business?

These are the questions that led to the development of this sustainability audit checklist.

Get Started with a Sustainability Audit Checklist

Let’s start by looking at what a sustainability audit actually is.

A sustainability audit is a tool that is used to compare your company’s practices with the best practices for sustainability.

Like most tools, it can be designed in a way that is simple and easy to use or it can be complex and detailed.

My focus with Cultivating Capital is on helping small businesses implement best practices for social and environmental responsibility, so the sustainability audit checklist that I’ve put together and that you can download is designed with you – the busy small business professional – in mind.

It draws upon widely-accepted best practices and condenses these into specific initiatives for conserving resources, engaging employees, giving back, and more. It also draws on my experience in working with small businesses and seeing what actually works (and what often gets overlooked).

The benefit of using a checklist is that you don’t need to figure out on your own what your business should be doing. The checklist lays out the best practices for you.

How to Conduct a Sustainability Audit

One of the most important things to realize when you begin the sustainability audit is that you won’t be able to do it alone.

Technically, yes, you can fill out the checklist by yourself. But more likely than not, you’ll find that you don’t have all of the information that you need in order to fill it out.

That’s why the first step that I recommend when thinking about doing an audit is to pull together a green team or sustainability committee.

Having a group of people who can help you complete the checklist – and more importantly, work on the projects that you identify as a result – will be critical to your success with the sustainability audit.

The sustainability audit checklist looks at the following areas:

  • Governance – does the business have the necessary support and infrastructure to develop a strong sustainability program?
  • Social Impact: Workers – how has the business engaged employees and ensured that they are treated well?
  • Social Impact: Civic Engagement & Giving – how does the business give back to the community?
  • Environmental Impacts: Waste Reduction – what is the business doing to reduce waste?
  • Environmental Impacts: Resource Conservation – what is the business doing to conserve resources?
  • Environmental Impacts: Carbon Footprint & Toxics Reduction – what is the business doing to reduce its carbon footprint and reduce its use of toxic materials (including cleaning products)?
  • Environmental Impacts: Product Development & Life Cycle – what is the business doing to minimize the environmental footprint of its products?
  • Environmental & Social Impact: Supply Chain & Procurement – how is the business engaging with suppliers to promote sustainability?

As you can see, it’s quite comprehensive and looks at a wide range of practices that determine your business’s social and environmental impacts.

In each of these areas, four specific sustainability initiatives that represent best practices have been identified.

Now, you may ask:

Why only four best practices for each area?

Well, it’s quite simple really: you’re busy.

If you’re like most business professionals I work with (actually, all professionals I work with), your time is limited and you already have more on your plate than you can handle.

The Small Business Sustainability Audit checklist is designed to help you save time so that you can quickly and easily understand where your company stands with regards to best practices in key areas.

It’s not designed to be a comprehensive sustainability assessment, which is what I do with my clients. (In fact, this is a shortened version of the assessment that I use to help clients develop long-term sustainability plans.)

Rather, think of it as a Sustainability Audit tool that you can use to get a quick snapshot of where your business is doing well and where it can improve. It can also help you to start a discussion at your business and either launch or reinvigorate your own sustainability programs.

Next Steps

Download the Sustainability Audit template below, then go through this with your green team.

Mark “yes” or “no” to indicate which practices you’ve implemented.

When you’re done, review the practices that you haven’t implemented yet. Note that these are all areas of opportunity for you. Work with your green team to begin identify which practices you can begin to work on.

Free Sustainability Audit Checklist

Get the free checklist to begin your sustainability audit today!

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