Sustainability manager reconciles economy and ecology

A sustainability manager supports corporate companies and SMEs in their development and implementation of sustainability goals. He ensures sustainability in the supply chain. In this way, he reconciles social, ecological and economic requirements for sustainability in companies.

Why do companies need a sustainability manager?

Definition of sustainability: Ancient wisdom says that no more wood should be cut from a forest than it can grow back. Applied to corporate sustainability, this means: procurement, production, service and delivery must not be at the expense of the environment, employees and other stakeholders. A sustainability manager defines together with the management sustainability goals to balance the three sustainability dimensions. For this purpose, the so-called sustainability triangle has emerged among experts.

According to this idea, entrepreneurial action should serve both the company’s own economic stability, environmental protection and social justice for employees and (global) society.

What tasks does a sustainability manager cover?

The sustainability manager takes on a cross-sectional function in companies. He is appointed by the Executive Board and is responsible for defining sustainability across the entire supply chain in collaboration with the specialist departments. He guides staff in developing sustainability measures for their areas of responsibility. He supports during implementation and application and ensures sustainability controlling. In his work, he is guided by a holistic approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the social responsibility of companies.

Read more about the idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

How are the sustainability goals (SDGs) implemented by the sustainability manager?

The 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations (UN) answer the question: “What is sustainability?”. The three dimensions of sustainability – social, environmental, and economic – should also be realized in the economy by 2030 according to the UN’s ideas. The sustainability manager has the task of translating the SDGs into practical action assignments for all company areas. For this, he sets up a Sustainability Management System that covers all company-specific sustainability dimensions.

In addition, he translates the three pillars of sustainability into guidelines and management systems.

  • Guidelines: Describe overarching and non-concrete goals that should guide the thinking of all actors, similar to the Ten Commandments in the Bible: “Thou shalt protect the natural foundations of life”.
  • Policies: Describe specific rules that everyone must follow: “You must respect the laws and regulations of the state”.
  • Management Systems: These are instruments for the implementation of sustainability measures and sustainability controlling set up in accordance with the standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Examples of guidelines, policies, and management systems for the implementation of sustainability in companies:

Sustainability Pillar: Economy

  • Guideline: We strive for long-term and solid financial success and secure jobs.
  • Policies: Anti-Corruption Policy and Code of Conduct
  • Management System: Quality Management according to ISO 9001

Sustainability Pillar: Ecology

  • Guideline: We improve our resource efficiency along with technological development and reduce our energy consumption.
  • Policies: Regulations for waste and scrap prevention, circular economy, and recycling
  • Management System: Environmental Management according to ISO 14001

Sustainability Pillar: Social

  • Guideline: We treat each other with respect – regardless of origin, gender, and orientation. We see diversity in our company as an enrichment.
  • Policies: Occupational health and safety, Occupational health management
  • Management System: Occupational safety according to ISO 45001

Read more about the contents of sustainability management.

When is the appointment of an external sustainability manager necessary?

Large corporations often have sufficient resources to appoint a full-time sustainability manager. However, this is different in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. Under tight financial and human resources, it is often impossible to assign a staff member to establish a Sustainability Management System. In such cases, it is useful and advisable to engage an external sustainability manager.

What are the benefits of an external sustainability manager?

An external sustainability manager offers specialized expertise and provides on-demand support. From the first day of their appointment, they are capable of analyzing a company from the perspective of its sustainability impacts. With their technical, legal, and ecological knowledge, they support management and specialist departments in developing company-specific sustainability goals and accompany them in achieving these goals. External sustainability managers provide particular advantages to small and medium-sized enterprises that aim to become suppliers for corporate companies. Corporate companies require their partners to demonstrate sustainability throughout the entire supply chain. The automotive industry has developed its own assessment procedure to evaluate the sustainability of its suppliers, known as the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ). The current version in use is SAQ 4.0.

Read more about the contents and procedure of the SAQ 4.0.

How does an external sustainability manager proceed?

The external sustainability manager follows a systematic approach. They analyze the current state of a company based on the criteria of SAQ 4.0 or the general sustainability requirements of the Social Development Goals. From this analysis, they identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and risks that need to be addressed in a Sustainability Management System. The collaboration with the client can take place through workshops, individual meetings, or written reports. Recommendations are provided on guidelines and management systems that the client should use to improve and document its sustainability. The external sustainability manager then supports the executive board, management, and employees in implementing the measures. They develop texts for guidelines and directives, advise on the introduction of management systems according to ISO standards, and accompany the certification of management systems by external certification and testing organizations.

What is the cost of an external sustainability manager?

The costs for an external sustainability manager depend on the effort and scope of the desired and required services. We value close contact with our customers and develop tailored sustainability concepts in collaboration with them. We offer user-friendly solutions for which we also take responsibility during implementation. To determine the client-specific needs, we consider the company size, number of locations and employees, as well as the type and scope of the required Sustainability Management System. Based on our extensive consulting experience, we offer three service packages at a fixed price. We are happy to customize them according to your individual needs.

Would you like to learn more about the appointment of an external sustainability manager? Schedule a free initial consultation with Memex Consulting GmbH.

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