News | 30th January 2019

The Future-Fit Business Benchmark: How do I start?

By Martin Rich

Look at it as a tool with which to solve the underlying puzzles posed by the sustainability challenge.


One of the most common questions we are asked is, how do I start to apply the Future-Fit Business Benchmark in my business? In fairness, it is a lot to get one’s head around. However, what this question and all of its varieties (e.g. “Which of the 23 Break-Even Goals should I prioritize?” and “How do I get internal buy-in?”) are really asking is: “How do I start to truly integrate sustainability into every facet of my company’s activities and purpose?” Given that this is such a complicated question, it’s understandable that getting started can seem a bit overwhelming.

But that’s the point of the Benchmark — to provide a framework through which to start answering such big questions. Or to put it another way, don’t see the Benchmark as another obstacle to be overcome, but as a tool with which to solve the underlying puzzles posed by the sustainability challenge.

We can explore this idea with a couple of examples from companies currently using the Benchmark.

For one of our Development Council members, Novo Nordisk, the Benchmark’s progress indicators offered the opportunity to calculate where the company is today versus the ambition of being fully Future-Fit. As Cora Olsen, Novo Nordisk’s Global Lead of TBL Reporting, explains:

“If the company is to make continued, meaningful progress with regard to sustainability, we first need to know where the gaps are. Calculating our progress against all 23 Break-Even Goals enables this. The process meant reaching out to colleagues across the business to identify the correct data or, in some cases, where we needed to start measuring it. When I explained why we needed the information and what we were doing with it, my colleagues were incredibly excited at the idea of contributing to the bigger picture – hence we’ve also achieved great internal buy-in!”

The outcome of all this work is the world’s first complete Future-Fit Break-Even assessment by a listed company — the results of which were premiered at Sustainable Brands’ New Metrics ‘18 conference in Philadelphia in October. The information is already being used by the company to prioritize corrective action, as well as drive internal conversations to tackle some of the more fundamental challenges it faces as a global pharmaceutical business.

By way of contrast, another Development Council member, The Body Shop, has focused on integrating the concepts of future-fitness directly into its business planning. The company’s “Enrich not Exploit” strategy is grounded in seven ultimate ambitions for becoming a truly sustainable business, which together encompass all of the Future-Fit criteria. The Body Shop’s sustainability team, led by Chris Davis, has also started to integrate the Future-Fit approach into the processes and procedures used across the various divisions of the business on a daily basis. In the words of Davis, the pursuit of future-fitness has therefore become “not about chasing targets, but simply the way we do business every day.”

What these two brief examples demonstrate is that there is no “correct” way to use the Benchmark, but rather that a blend of approaches built around a company’s strategic priorities is the best starting point. More or less every major company has some form of sustainability commitment already and leveraging this is often the best starting point. For example, three of the Benchmark goals address relatively common and understandable environmental concepts — renewable energy usage, and greenhouse gas emissions from operations and products — and looking at how current commitments align with these goals could be a good place to begin. Alternatively, for those companies looking to focus on a thriving workplace, five of the Benchmark goals address employees and represent a full set of worker-related requirements that are firmly within a company’s power to address.

Clearly with such a diverse range of global companies, challenges and potential solutions, the market requires an equally diverse range of solution providers. While the Future-Fit Foundation is the creator, developer and steward of the Future-Fit concept and methodology, our ambition is to foster a thriving global ecosystem of partners to help carry the mantle and provide the assistance that companies require, from consulting to IT solutions.

To this end, we recently launched the Future-Fit Certified Professional and Accredited Partner programs (for individuals and businesses, respectively). Consultants and advisors with these accreditations have studied the Benchmark documentation, passed a rigorous online exam, and provided multiple client references, thereby giving companies comfort that they fully understand the Future-Fit methodology and can assist in its application. Empowering these actors is a vital way to encourage and equip more businesses to get started with the Benchmark — joining The Body Shop, Novo Nordisk and other Future-Fit pioneers in driving progress toward an environmentally restorative, socially just and economically inclusive future.

Martin Rich Co-Founder & Executive Director

Martin is a sustainable investment specialist, with over 20 years experience in both mainstream and impact finance.

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