Taking action to improve an SME’s sustainability

The seventh and last step in the use of sustainability indicators is the introduction of a plan of action to improve the company’s performance.

During the previous steps, the company’s environmental performances have been determined using indicators, the measurements analyzed and the options for improving sustainability identified. This step involves implementation of decisions taken thanks to the formulation of clear objectives and the creation of a plan of action.

Formulating targeted objectives for improving sustainability

Targeting specific objectives is essential for improving the company’s environmental performance and demonstrating its commitment to employees and external actors. This also promotes the desire to achieve the required results. Thanks to the formalities completed in the previous stages to clarify the best options for improvement, these objectives are now clearly definable.

It is not unusual for the targeted objectives to involve changes in the design of products or adjustments in existing processes in order to reduce environmental impact. Ideally, the objectives set should also include a schedule for their achievement.

Example of table grouping targeted objectives

The objectives can be grouped together in a table as in the fictitious example below:

Sustainability indicator




Recycled and reused materials consumption indicator

Our use of recycled materials is well below the industry average. Retailers and consumers are always asking for more information about the sources and environmental quality of materials.

Increase use of recycled materials over 3 years by changing suppliers:

  • 1st year: to 20%
  • 2nd year: to 30% (industry average)
  • 3rd year: to 40% (the best option possible considering the current rate of recycling)


Energy consumption indicator

Our energy consumption in factories is very high and can be significantly reduced by renovation of the buildings.

Reduce energy consumption by 25% in 3 years with the following measures:

  • 1st year: installation of a new ventilation system
  • 2nd year: increase glazed surfaces
  • 3rd year: reinforce the insulation in all buildings


Indicator of regulated substances contained in the products

Approximately 20% of the total weight of our products is made up of regulated substances. New legislation aimed at banning the use of these substances is likely to be introduced shortly.

Completely eliminate the presence of regulated substances in products within 5 years with the following measures:

  • Increase use of non-toxic materials in production processes by 20% per year
  • Develop a new range of non-toxic products within 2 years
  • Gradually reduce the current rate of products from the 3rd year onwards
Source: OECD guidelines on sustainable production

Creation of a sustainability improvement action plan

Preparation of an action plan facilitates achievement of the objectives set by precisely identifying the activities, responsibilities and due dates for the measures to be introduced. To manage and share an action plan, a table can prove very useful.

Example of a sustainability improvement action plan

In the sample action plan below, a fictitious company seeks to improve the sustainability of its energy consumption through renovation of its buildings:

Action and objective



Comprehensive analysis of costs and assurance of financing for renovation projects

Finance Department

Two weeks

Internal evaluation and recommendations concerning the impact of the introduction of the new ventilation system and glazed surfaces on production processes, employees and adapted solutions

Team in charge of real estate

One month

Inform management of options and next steps

Head of team in charge of real estate

End of the month

Draw up contracts with the supplier of the new ventilation system and fitters and prepare a work plan for the transition

Team in charge of real estate

1st quarter

Installation of the ventilation system

Team in charge of real estate

2nd quarter

Examine and evaluate successes and problems in collaboration with the workers

Team in charge of real estate and team in charge of sustainability

3rd quarter

Adjust schedule and next steps depending on the preliminary results

Team in charge of real estate and team in charge of sustainability

4th quarter

Source: OECD guidelines on sustainable production

It is usually necessary to draw up one action plan for each sustainability indicator to help the various sectors of the company to evaluate the numerous options for improvement.


Last modification 10.10.2022

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