Getting started with a sustainability plan – how and why

Liz Williams covers how to go about getting started with a sustainability plan, the benefits of this, quick wins vs longer term activities, examples from horticulture, resources available to help you

Building sustainability into your business has never been so important, with the climate crisis, forthcoming government legislation and policies, and growing consumer demand all driving towards a more sustainable future.

But it has also never been so easy to build sustainability into your plans as there is support and advice to be found from a variety of sources. Businesses cannot afford to fall behind and do nothing.

When writing a sustainability plan

Many businesses are doing something to lessen their impact on the environment but can find it a challenge to bring these together into a plan or framework to generate and maintain momentum and maximise the benefit to the business. This is where a sustainability plan comes in as a great resource.

When writing a sustainability plan, a first step is determining the reasons you are creating a plan, what the scope of your plan is, and what your focus areas will be. This is most likely to include areas like carbon reduction, water, plastics and packaging, growing media, chemicals, sourcing of products and materials, fuel, and transport; however social aspects such as a business’s impact on its employees and its local community are also important. Businesses can personalise this to meet their exact business operations and values.

The next step is

The next step is going to be setting short-, medium- and long-term goals for what you want to achieve in the next weeks and months and years. These goals should be ambitious but achievable. Your own staff are invaluable in this process as they will have ideas and experience which can help you to develop your goals and planned activities to achieve them.

It’s ok if you don’t meet all your goals

Finally, it’s about putting those goals and activities into action, and to regularly review your progress such as using the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle (PDCA).

Remember it’s ok if you don’t meet all your goals; you can adjust them as you go, as long as you are making some progress towards them. You may find that you can move quicker than you expected in some areas and you can bring others forward in your plan.

Bring your customers along the journey

You should also bring your customers along the journey with you. If you have changed something they are used to, tell them why you have, and the benefits it will have to the environment. As consumers are looking for more sustainable products and services, showing them your commitment to this can increase your customer loyalty and sentiment.

It’s also important not to be shy about sharing your achievements; staff and customers want to hear about your successes!

But it’s important ensure you have the evidence in place to back up your claims and to avoid falling into the trap of greenwashing.

The true green industry,

The horticulture industry has a huge opportunity to be the true green industry, and many businesses in our industry are at the very leading edge of putting sustainability at the heart of their businesses, and as this continues, we expect to see horticulture and landscaping become increasingly recognised for the huge environmental and social good they deliver to the UK.

About Liz Williams

Liz Williams is the Sustainability Executive at the HTA, and she works with colleagues to help guide the industry to become more sustainable through the HTA's Sustainability Roadmap, launched in 2020. Before joining the HTA, Liz studied a master’s degree in Sustainable Environmental Management at Plymouth University.

HTA Resources

The HTA also have a how-to guide on Writing a Sustainability Plan, written with partner Planet Mark and a template document that members can download from

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