Many facilities are working towards sustainability, but what goals are they setting to become a sustainable building? Saying you want to be sustainable is one thing, but laying the foundation for becoming sustainable and making it public is another. New research shows organizations that are successful at achieving sustainability have one thing in common: they set goals.

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Putting goals in place to help a facility move towards becoming a sustainable building improves both financial and environmental performance. Making goals public increases accountability and can be a driver for improvement in an organization. Sustainability goals have a definite impact on energy use, water consumption, waste creation, and greenhouse gas emissions Reductions in each of these areas ultimately affects the bottom line, benefitting the organization through cost savings.

An organization with sustainable building goals in place are four to five times more successful at achieving their objectives compared to organizations with no sustainability goals. While having goals in place is key for becoming a more sustainable building, too many goals can hinder progress. When working towards sustainability, it’s best to have about three or four strong goals rather than numerous goals. Too many goals can take the mission in multiple directions and stretch resources too thin. Many organizations choose to work from easiest to implement to toughest to achieve when addressing the goals they set, and achieving earlier goals can provide great motivation for tackling more difficult issues.

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Becoming a sustainable building doesn’t happen overnight. To develop an organization’s sustainability, it’s best to keep the long-term in mind when setting goals. Think in terms of years and not days. Multi-year goals can be broken down with milestones set for smaller periods of time, as well as performance targets.

Monitoring progress is essential to achieving sustainable building goals. Monitoring and tracking the organization’s progress helps to keep members focused on the end goal. Regular reporting of goal progress should also be conducted and presented to executive teams. These tasks show an organization’s dedication towards their goals over time, and ensures goals are kept in the forefront of the organization’s priorities.

Organizations should also involve their stakeholders when setting sustainability goals. Internal and external stakeholders each play a role in goal setting. Create increased buy-in with internal stakeholders by involving them in the goal setting process, as they will be responsible for helping the organization achieve sustainability. External stakeholders have a different perspective, and are valuable in helping fine-tune sustainability goals to bolster the organization’s reputation.