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A Framework to Help Guide Sustainability Strategies Now and in the Future

Google Marketing recently published an article about the Now, Next, Later framework for marketing strategies, and we believe it maps well to sustainability strategies. This is our adaptation.

We’re in unprecedented times and nobody can predict how the pandemic will play out long-term. However, we can still make sound decisions now by using the insights we have available and considering multiple time horizons to plan for the future.

The Google Canada teams turn to the Now, Next, Later framework, a planning tool used across industries, to assess and adapt our strategies. It allows us to break down what steps we need to take now, what we need to focus on over the next several months, and where to focus our attention in the long run.

Adapt what’s in your control now

You’re likely already doing this for your business, but this is something you’ll need to continue to do as we navigate this situation. Ensure your plans continue to adapt completely to the new realities we are living in.

Analyze your sustainability priorities, EMS, reports, and projects. Make sure they are sensitive, relevant and working. Does it make sense to go climate neutral at this time? Are your targets and objectives updated to reflect the current situation? Are your campaigns in channels where customers are today and might be in the near future?

When you feel comfortable with the current situation your team and strategies are in (and this takes time), consider how to prioritize your time and tasks so you can listen, learn and plan what is next.

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Read about the framework here

Use insights to identify what could impact your business next

We’re all feeling the situation at a personal and professional level. This is not the time to put pressure on yourself or team to be the best sustainability professionals — but rather the best humans — you can be. Tune into the world around you, and let that guide your environmental decisions.

Use the tools and insights that are available now, such as Measurabl. Follow trusted sources and sustainability thought leaders, and reflect on how the current situation is impacting you as an individual, or your friends and family. What personal habits have you changed, and what new habits have you formed?

Continue to revisit the insights you’ve gathered and consider both short- and long-term changes to stakeholder needs.

Continue to revisit the insights you’ve gathered and consider both short- and long-term changes to stakeholder needs. For example, Lush "invented their shampoo bars back in the late 1980s and in the last five years alone they have sold over 6.5 million shampoo bars in North America, saving 19.4 million plastic bottles from being produced." Will that behaviour hold as the current circumstances change? How could that impact where you focus your resources in the near- and long-term?

Plan for a range of scenarios that may affect your business later

Think of various scenarios that might play out in the back half of 2020 and beyond. Build “what if” statements around those. What will your new stakeholders look like? Have their needs changed? What can you do to fulfill these changes? Answering these questions to the best of your ability now can help inform your long-term plans and position you to quickly adapt.

Create contingency plans for each scenario (much like you would for a TCFD scenario analysis). Think about how you would adapt your environmental management, priorities, initiatives, or reporting to meet shifts in the market. Establish a cadence of regular check-ins on these “what if” statements and check if they are still accurate or if any are becoming a reality. By thinking ahead, your team will have the plans in place to begin taking action quickly when the time comes to react.

None of us can predict what will happen next, but we can plan for different scenarios. By using data and empathy, we can prepare ourselves for whatever the future may hold.

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