How can organizations invest in the planet through their sustainability strategies?

Earth Day, an annual international celebration that raises awareness of the need to protect natural resources for future generations, reminds us that now is the time to invest in our planet. With the sixth and last IPCC report issuing a final warning on the climate crisis, what greater and more lucrative investment could there be?

Yet understanding how to accelerate progress towards a sustainable future can be a challenge. From individuals wishing to reduce their consumption and recycling household waste to organizations looking to develop strategies to make their operations more sustainable; it can be difficult to know how to move from sustainability ambition to action. Practical guidance can help organizations to determine how and where to invest to maximize positive impact for the planet, the economy, and society at large.

To celebrate Earth Day, BSI experts have collaborated to explore how organizations can ensure their own prosperity and that of the planet through investing in sustainability initiatives, with solutions in net zero, a circular economy, sustainable investing, and organizational purpose. 

Achieving net zero

Global warming, which is already seeing surface temperatures reaching 1°C above pre-industrial levels, is understood to be resulting in widespread and rapid changes in weather and climate in every region across the globe. Experts are clear that these changes pose a very serious threat to the environment, society, and global economies. While some changes are now unavoidable, consensus is that they can still be limited by reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions by nearly half by 2030, and ultimately by achieving net zero no later than by 2050. Every tenth of a degree matters.

Organizations, of all sizes and maturity, face several challenges in achieving net zero, from understanding and planning, to measuring, target setting, and implementation. Yet, not only is there a clear environmental case, there is also a strong commercial case too.

How can organizations invest in net zero with confidence, knowing their actions will achieve sustainability goals to maximise positive impact? The ISO Net Zero Guidelines, an output of Our 2050 World collaboration facilitated by BSI, provide a practical, end-to-end framework for organizations at any level of maturity on their net zero journey. They clarify a potentially confusing and fragmented governance landscape and offer a common reference point for what "good looks like" when taking credible net zero action. Free to access, they are, as early adopter Planet Mark, say, "accessible and applicable to all organizations looking for guidance to achieve net zero."

BSI is currently in the process of implementing the guidelines as part of our strategic ambition to achieve net zero in our own operations by 2030. As we move through this journey it is clear how crucial it is to secure consistency and quality in measuring our emissions.

Getting an accurate understanding of where we are was the first step towards developing an achievable pathway to the end targets. Targeted engagement has also been also key, ensuring that every stakeholder has a relevant understanding of their own impact.  Finally, incentivizing people to act has proven to have an immediate and galvanizing effect. This year, we launched a Carbon Allowance Model – distributing carbon budgets and targets to our leadership and linking the achievement of our yearly carbon targets directly with their bonus remuneration – a move that has already led to a reduction in emissions in the first few months of adoption.

Transitioning to a circular economy

In Europe alone, material use results in more than 2.5 billion tonnes of waste produced every year for disposal. Our current waste model is understood to be unsustainable, not only for the planet but also for our economy.

A circular economy, where resources are redeployed or reused, material use and resultant waste is addressed, and waste flows are turned into inputs for further production, can help reduce dependence on finite raw materials and the volumes we cast off as waste. It can also boost economic growth through job creation, protect human health and biodiversity, and reduce GHG emissions.

A lack of external support, resources, infrastructure, competencies, and regulations and guidance are all cited as obstacles organizations face when trying to transition to a more circular model. While it can be a complex landscape, BSI's circular economy standard (BS 8001) has for nearly six years been providing a practical framework and guidance to implement the principles of a circular economy. Internationally applicable, the guidance applies to any organization regardless of location, size, sector, or type. It provides everything from practical 'quick wins' to helping organizations re-think how resources are managed for value optimisation, to enhance financial, environmental, and social benefits.

Our challenge is that, while transitioning to a circular model, organizations can also sometimes face challenges associated with "greenwashing". With as many of 42% of 'green claims' found to be exaggerated, it is important that organizations build consumer trust in their circular model and accurately and confidently communicate the quality of their products. The BSI Kitemark schemes for remanufactured and reconditioned products can verify an organization's processes against best practice. This is the first independently verified mark of trust, linking value with quality, and giving consumers confidence that the products meet the level of quality, performance, and reliability expected. Notably, 80% of organizations said their Kitemark improved their reputation and 95% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product with a BSI Kitemark.[1]

Overcoming barriers to sustainable investments

Financial organizations shape outcomes through their influence over the real economy and how companies perform. With estimates suggesting the global finance market will grow to over $37 billion per annum by 2026, promoting a deeper understanding of how to embed sustainability across the sector could contribute to positive environmental and social outcomes, and driving progress towards a sustainable world.  

But how do senior executives integrate the key principles of sustainability into their operations and secure the advantages this will bring for clients and shareholders? BSI led the development of international guidance (ISO 32210:2022) aimed at helping financial organizations turn their sustainability ambitions into action. This provides advice for financial organizations seeking to embed sustainability that is consistent with any regulatory framework.

Similarly, a collaboration between BSI and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is also aiming to provide investment assurance. The Nature Investment Standards Programme is one of a suite of interventions to boost market confidence and increase private sector investment into nature recovery and nature-friendly farming.

These standards have the potential to help to avoid greenwashing and build confidence in sustainable investments. They help empower organizations to make sustainable financial and environmental investments, safe in the knowledge they are being delivered to the highest standard.

Creating positive societal impacts through organizational purpose

Ultimately, putting sustainability ambitions and the increasingly urgent needs of people and planet at the heart of strategy and operations is about organizations being driven by purpose. Purpose-driven organizations (PDOs) are those focused on contributing to a sustainable future through managing and caring properly for all resources and stakeholders.

Investing in purpose is not only beneficial to society, but also makes good business sense as customers, investors, and regulators increasingly want to know if organizations are part of the solution to society's shared challenges. Indeed, BSI research found that two-thirds of UK consumers would abandon organizations that 'purpose wash'. Younger consumers are especially attuned, with nearly three in four 18 to 24-year-olds considering purpose when making purchasing decisions[2].

In order to help organizations reassure consumers and embed genuine purpose-driven decision-making as widely as possible, BSI developed the globally applicable standard PAS 808:2022. It describes the worldviews, principles, and behaviours of a PDO and determines how organizations can align with these principles.

By investing in their purpose, organizations can embed purpose-driven decision-making into how they do business. This will help to ensure that addressing the increasingly urgent needs of people and planet are front and centre of their strategy and operations.

At BSI, we have been driven by our purpose for over a century. We know that a majority of our people made their employment decision specifically because their values are aligned with our core desire to build trust and make a positive impact on the world. When people feel connected to something bigger than themselves, they bring even more excellence, passion, and commitment to everything they do.

Collaboration and consultancy

As organizations strive to align their operations with sustainability considerations, they will be navigating complex and evolving global regulatory frameworks, stakeholder expectations, and market pressures.  More and more, investors are looking to do business with organizations that value all-encompassing sustainable and socially responsible practices. Building sustainable organizational plans and policies custom to any organization is no small undertaking. Collaboration will be key to achieving to success.

Consultant collaboration can help organizations seize their opportunities by providing an objective perspective combined with cross-sector and specialized expertise, best practices, and support throughout any stage of sustainability programme maturity. BSI's consultancy experience in operational environmental health and safety, supply chain risk, and sustainability is supported by our best-in-class risk intelligence and information tools and enables us to help clients translate goals into concrete practices.

Collaboration is a key element of BSI's culture, and it is a critical component in how we enable our teams to hit our ambitious sustainability targets. We have a responsibility to create positive impact for organizations, our people, stakeholders, and the world. As such, we are heavily invested in making sure we adhere to the highest standards. BSI has a bold and cohesive sustainability strategy. In the next seven years, we will be reducing our scopes 1 and 2 emissions by 90% and our scope 3 emissions by 42% against our 2022 baseline.  That kind of transformation is enabled through deep collaboration, trust, and reliance on the expertise and skillsets of our people.  We know we cannot do this alone, and our collaborative, curious culture provides the catalyst for meaningful change.

Turning ambition to action

BSI believes in a sustainable future and achieving it requires collaboration, knowledge and expertise, future thinking, and pragmatic solutions. As a trusted partner, BSI can help organizations accelerate their sustainability investments leading to optimal benefits for the planet, the wider economy, and society.

The scale of the challenge can sometimes seem daunting. But by working collaboratively to turn ambition into action together we can accelerate progress toward a sustainable world.


Authored by:

  • Kerri-Emma Dobson, Group Sustainability Proposition Manager
  • Daniel Barlow, Head of Innovation & Policy
  • Murray Sayce, Global Head of Assurance Sustainability Solutions
  • Anne Hayes, Director of Sectors Knowledge Solutions
  • Martin Townsend, Director for BSI Centre of Excellence for Sustainability
  • Ryan Lynch, Practice Director, Sustainability
  • Heather Burrell, Group Head of Sustainability Engagement


[1] BSI Internal Customer Survey 2018

[2] Polling of 2000 UK consumers was conducted for BSI by OnePoll between the 28th of June 2022 and the 7th of July 2022.