It is increasingly important for medium-sized companies to meet sustainability criteria and to make this visible. In the overall economic structure, they are always part of a larger supply chain and thus bound by the sustainability requirements of other stakeholders. Demands on SMEs also come from banks and insurance companies. This is because the ESG criteria that a company implements are playing an increasingly important role in the financial sector against the backdrop of sustainable finance and are important when lending to an SME. In addition, the expectations of customers and employees are becoming increasingly concrete. But how specifically does an SME go about thinking, acting, and deciding in terms of sustainability? The topic of sustainability is complex. There are 20 important sustainability criteria, which include, for example, “innovation and product management”, “resource management” or “employee rights”. Therefore, the key question is: Where is the topic of sustainability relevant in the company at all?

The ESG criteria in your own company

Sustainability is a broad topic. The established three-pillar model offers orientation here and divides sustainability into three dimensions: ecological, economic, and social. All three pillars are interdependent and essential for corporate sustainability but can be weighted differently in the sustainability strategy depending on the company and industry. In the ecological area, for example, companies can focus on CO2 or waste reduction and the careful use of resources. The economic pillar includes compliance, risk management and corporate resilience, while the social pillar focuses on fair treatment and respectful interaction, and on the interests of employees and stakeholders. Professional management forms the bracket so that the sustainability goals from all three areas can be implemented effectively and purposefully. There is a wealth of international and national guidelines and DIN standards for implementing sustainability in these three areas. At national level, the German Sustainability Code (DNK) is an important standard for sustainable management.

Sustainability as a management system

When we start a new sustainability project for our medium-sized customers, we first analyze which sustainability criteria are relevant and how the company currently meets them. Here we also see to what extent a concrete assessment is currently possible. Based on these findings, the potential for improvement is worked out and concrete targets are set. In this process, the effects that are to result from the achievement of the objectives are also defined. In the overall result, the implemented sustainability criteria should have an effect for the company as an ecosystem.

The target system is then planned in concrete terms: Which steps are required with which resources to achieve the objectives? Here it makes sense to apply established project management to bring the mostly new topics into the company. In turn, sustainability is anchored in the company via an established management system. Plan – Implement – Review – Adapt are considered effective steps for achieving goals and continuously developing systems. This also applies to sustainability management, as it can be assumed that additional criteria will be added in the further course or existing criteria will be transferred to management and reporting. CSR reporting, to which more and more companies will gradually be de facto obligated, can only be meaningfully managed if the sustainability criteria have been defined and the development of the degree of fulfilment is controlled and documented.

No matter what the individual sustainability management in a company looks like: A change towards more sustainability is always worthwhile. The more sustainably an SME positions itself, the more competitive, future-proof, attractive and resilient it is.

THE MAK`ED TEAM accompanies SMEs that want to successfully develop and implement their transformation processes towards more sustainability within the organization. We know how a focused implementation can succeed and quickly bear fruit. And we know what to look out for so that a company can benefit from its professional sustainability management in the long term.

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