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Kicking Off Your Sustainability Journey

This is Part 4 of 4 in the sustainability series brought to you by Lisa Peterson, a sustainability consultant at Aftan Engineering who specializes in helping companies become compliant.

Part 1: Feeling the Pressure of Sustainability?
Part 2: The Alphabet Soup of Sustainability: Making Sense of the Acronyms
Part 3: SEC Proposed Amendment Potentially Impacts Supply Chain Companies

So you've established that you want to journey down the sustainability compliance path. Now you need to figure out why you're embarking down this path and what specifically you are looking to accomplish.


Why are you embarking on a sustainability journey? Why is it important to you now? You need to clearly understand your WHY! The answers typically fall into one of the following categories.

  1. Customer – The customer has stated that they have a requirement pertaining to sustainability for all their suppliers.
  2. Sales/Marketing – The sales and marketing teams are feeling pressure from competitors who are winning jobs because these competitors appear more committed to sustainability.
  3. Board/Owners – The board of directors has recommended that sustainability metrics be included in monthly reports.
  4. Employees – Employees are passionate about continuous improvement in the field of sustainability.
  5. Financial Institution – The loan or line of credit being applied for seeks information about sustainability.


Once you clearly understand the primary stakeholder who is driving the need to embark on a sustainability journey, next seek to understand what they want. Look for the acronyms mentioned in my previous blog.

When Customers drive the need to embark on your sustainability journey, they commonly ask for:

  • Sustainability surveys to be completed;
  • LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments) to be provided for products they purchase from you; or
  • ISO 14001 compliance or certification.

When Sales and Marketing or Boards identify the need for embarking on a sustainability journey, they commonly have a benchmarking study done to evaluate the competitors’ actions in the field of sustainability, sometimes including suppliers and customers in the benchmarking study as well as competitors. From this benchmarking study, common next steps include:

  • LCAs for products you sell, which may lead to eco-labeling, PEFs, EPDs or other product claims;
  • LCA for your company to document your Scope 1 and 2 GHG emission for your operation;
  • ISO 14001 compliance or certification;
  • Adoption of metrics pertaining to sustainability;
  • Establishment of corporate goals for 3-5 of the most relevant UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals); or
  • Preparation of a report to share with customers and potential customers about your company’s initiatives pertaining to sustainability.

When Employees drive sustainability initiatives, they commonly pursue:

  • Environmental clean up projects in the community; or
  • Continuous improvement projects that impact ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) topics.

When Financial Institutions drive sustainability reporting, they will be very specific about the form or the template you are to follow, which will likely follow a framework, at least in part, that is similar to the GRI, CDP, SASB, or TCFD reporting standards.

Ready, Set, Go

Once you know “Why” you are embarking on a sustainability journey and “What” you need to do to address the “Why”, you are ready to embark on your journey. The first step of your journey will likely be just that – a first step. It is very common for a company to have a second or third “Why” shortly after the first “Why”; and therefore, additional initiatives will follow. Just take one step at a time. Sustainability journeys are journeys, not destinations. Embrace sustainability, because with each step in your journey, you will reap the benefits of that step.

About Aftan Engineering, LLC

Aftan Engineering is a company based out of Pennsylvania that specializes in Sustainability and Continuous Improvement challenges. Led by Lisa Peterson, they offer services pertaining to Sustainability, ISO 14001 Compliance Preparation, Lean Six Sigma, Continuous Process Improvement (Manufacturing Optimization), Supply Chain Management, and 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing).

Feel free to contact us or Lisa directly for more information about a sustainability compliance consultation or for any inquiries and/or questions. 

Lisa A. Peterson, PhD, P.E.

Written by Lisa A. Peterson, PhD, P.E.

Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., PE, MBA is the President of Berks County-based Aftan Engineering. Lisa is a uniquely qualified professional consultant in Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Social Governance, Continuous Process Improvement, and an expert in ISO 14001 Compliance.