What to do if your organization cannot comply with all sustainability criteria

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Sustainability criteria is a common subject matter these days, as companies are expected to commit to more sustainable practices. But what if you can’t? What should your business do in this situation?

In the event that you find out that complying with all sustainability criteria is not feasible for your company, there are a few steps you should take to help mitigate the situation. This article will walk you through exactly what to do.

What are sustainability criteria?

Sustainability criteria are requirements for the sustainable quality of a product and its sustainable production, which have to be fulfilled in order to gain a sustainability status or certification.

Sustainability criteria can range from environmental to social to economic. While there is no universally accepted list of criteria, there are several institutions, entities, and regulatory bodies that may publish them, including:

  • Governments (e.g., national, subnational, branches, etc.): Examples include the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, and the Brazilian Ministry of Environment.
  • Independent Reporting Standards Organizations (e.g., GRI, IFRS, IIRC, etc.): Independent reporting organizations develop and publish standards for sustainability reporting that are used on a voluntary and mandatory basis.

In addition, organizations frequently set internal sustainability criteria during planning in the lead-up to creating a sustainability report. Usually, these internal criteria are based on data from the company and represent targets that the company is trying to hit in the coming reporting cycle.

Businesses are expected to comply with as many of these criteria as possible in order to be deemed sustainable. However, there are some instances where compliance is not possible for a business.

What might companies not be able to comply with sustainability criteria?

There are a few reasons why your company might not be able to comply with all sustainability criteria.






Some reasons include:

  • Lack of Resources: Meeting sustainability criteria requires time, money, and personnel that your company may not have. For example, implementing an energy efficiency program may require hiring a specialist and purchasing new equipment, which is not feasible for a small business.
  • Lack of Knowledge: Your company might not know how to meet certain sustainability criteria or lack the necessary information to do so.
  • Lack of Organizational Will: Meeting sustainability criteria can be difficult and require changes to how your company operates. If the organization is not willing to make these changes, it will not be able to comply with sustainability criteria.
  • Unachievable Targets: Some sustainability criteria, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage, might be impossible for your company to meet.

The cause that’s preventing your company from meeting criteria will play a huge role in determining the correct response. Not sure what that response would be? Don’t worry—we’ll be offering some general advice in the next section.

What are the risks of not complying with sustainability criteria?

There are a few risks to consider if your company cannot comply with all criteria.

The most immediate risk is to your company’s reputation. Consumers, investors, and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in sustainable business practices, and they are likely to penalize companies that cannot meet sustainability criteria. In addition, failing to meet the criteria can lead to fines or other penalties from regulatory bodies.

Another risk is operational. Meeting criteria can be costly and time-consuming, and it may require changes to how the company operates. If your company isn’t able to make these changes, it will be at a disadvantage compared to its competitors. Additionally, not complying with sustainability criteria can lead to decreased efficiency and profitability.

What should a company do if it can’t comply with all sustainability criteria?

If your company cannot comply with all sustainability criteria, there are a few steps you should take to help mitigate the situation:

1. Take a Look at Your Company’s Context

Every company is different and will have different reasons why they cannot comply with sustainability criteria. It is important to understand your specific context in order to find a solution.

As we mentioned earlier, there are many possible causes of non-compliance. Some reasons, such as a lack of resources, are easier to address than others, such as a lack of organizational will.

2. Communicate With Stakeholders

Let stakeholders know that your company is not able to meet certain sustainability criteria and explain the reasons why. This will help maintain transparency and openness about your company’s sustainability efforts.

When it comes to communicating with stakeholders, it’s important to be open and transparent about why your company is not able to meet certain sustainability criteria. Explain the reasons why and what you are doing to mitigate the situation.

3. Look for Alternatives

If your company cannot meet a certain sustainability criterion, look for an alternative that is feasible. For example, if your company cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a certain percentage, find a way to offset those emissions instead.

4. Implement Temporary Solutions

If there are certain sustainability criteria that your company cannot meet, implement temporary solutions until you are able to meet them. This might include implementing a stop-gap measure or finding an alternate way to meet the criterion.

5. Establish a Compliance Framework

Once you have communicated with stakeholders, work with them to establish a compliance framework that outlines how your company plans to meet as many sustainability criteria as possible. This will help keep everyone on the same page and ensure that your company is still making progress towards sustainability.




6. Take a Holistic Approach

Meeting sustainability criteria can be difficult, but it is important to take a holistic approach when trying to achieve them. This means looking at all aspects of your company and trying to make improvements in all areas, rather than just a few.

7. Use External Resources

There are many organizations and entities that can provide assistance with meeting sustainability criteria. Utilize these resources to help your company become more sustainable.

By following these steps, your company can still make progress towards sustainability despite not being able to comply with all criteria.

Wrapping Up

Sustainability is a hot topic these days, but what if your company can’t comply with all the sustainability criteria? In this situation, don’t panic! There are still ways to make your business more environmentally friendly.

You may need to get creative, but there are definitely ways to make a difference. Start by creating a sustainability plan and putting it into action. This will probably require some changes within your company, but it’s important to remember that these changes don’t have to be drastic.

If you’re having trouble getting started, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Contact an organization that specializes in sustainability for more information on how you can make your business more environmentally friendly—like Sandpaper!


About the Author

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Based in Dubai for over 10 years, Peter is the founder of Sandpaperme.com and TheSchoolAgency.com.
A trusted authority on digital marketing Peter is passionate about helping SMEs grow their business in the Gulf region.
When he’s not in the office Peter enjoys playing squash, often more times than his knees can cope.

About Sandpaper

At Sandpaper We have been around long enough to realize the importance of good report writing, research, and design. A thoroughly planned and executed report builds loyalty and trust among stakeholders.
In the 10 years of service, Sandpaper has managed a stay ahead of its competition; by developing and adapting to changes in both the global and local corporate landscape in the United Arab Emirates.

Annual Reports : Sustainability/Environmental, Financial/AGM, Impact and special focus.

Sustainability Reports, Annual Reports 90%
Report planning, research, collating, drafting, copywriting, proofing 50%
Concept creation, layout design, infographics, photography 70%

View the latest work Sandpaper has designed and published.