There are two primary ways of launching a sustainability program:
• Implement an integrated, comprehensive program with lots of metrics and a high degree of transparency, or
• Start small, seek small wins, and use the early successes to build buy-in and progressively raise expectations – what I call “the soft launch.”
I’m here to argue strongly for “the soft launch” – based on my exposure to and involvement in successful programs, unsuccessful programs and well-intentioned programs with a “failure to launch” (and, therefore, we’ll never know if they would have worked or not).
For small and mid-sized organizations that begin to address sustainability, the stumbling blocks are many: not knowing where to start, budget, wishing they had all the answers, afraid someone will ask them to prove the impact they’re having, etc. They suffer from “paralysis by analysis” and “great is the enemy of good.” They look at the world leaders in this area, with their sustainability reports, sustainability ratings, chief sustainability officers, etc., and think that’s what they have to do. Or they think it’s all too scary and decide to continue sitting on the sidelines.
The solution is to start somewhere small and winnable – maybe it’s addressing paper usage or carpooling or working with one business unit at a time. As long as you start small and build, and don’t overstate your progress or your intentions, that’s not greenwashing. The soft launch is pragmatic and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.