10 Sustainability KPI Measures

10 measures you can use to gauge your sustainability impact.

July 1, 2021

Every day, the importance of protecting the planet becomes more crucial. Experts have estimated that if drastic action isn’t taken, there will be irreversible damage to the planet by 2030.

As more consumers and brands push for sustainable products and services, a shift toward a circular economy has gained momentum — and there’s no sign of it stopping. Companies are increasingly working to create sustainable products with a circular design and reusable elements that don’t contribute to waste.

If you’re looking to switch to or launch your company with a circular design model, you’re on the right path toward creating a sustainable brand.

But how can you make sure your brand is truly making an impact? With key performance indicator (KPI) measures, you can determine the true impacts of your brand and how you’re affecting the planet.

Here are some of the ways you can track your brand’s sustainability impact with sustainability KPI’s.

1. Supply Chain Waste

Although you may only think of the waste that your company directly produces from your manufacturing or at your headquarters factory site, you should track all different aspects of the supply chain.

Tracking waste from the first stages of production — whether it’s a farm or factory — allows you to truly understand your brand’s sustainability impact. This way, you can partner with those that are working themselves to lessen their waste. If you already have suppliers and are an established brand, you can share sustainability best practices with suppliers and work together to lessen waste throughout all stages of production.

In a circular economy, it presents lots of opportunities for learning, constant development, and improvement — especially when it comes to outsourcing and working with other companies.

2. Recycling Rates

Recycling rates are a great KPI to let you know how well your brand is doing to preserve and prevent pollution and waste.

Evaluate your company’s recycling rate for not just materials used throughout the production process, but also for the rates at which consumers recycle their packaging and the product itself.

This further helps you know what percentage of your product or service’s materials are being broken down and recycled into other items and not contributing to global waste.

3. Greenhouse Gas Emissions/Carbon Footprint

When thinking of ways to save the environment, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is a carbon footprint.

By measuring greenhouse gas emissions  — including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and fluorinated gases — you can understand how your company is contributing to the gases that trap heat in the atmosphere.

There are three different types of greenhouses that can be tracked: scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3.

  • Scope 1: These greenhouse gases come directly from sources controlled or owned by an organization — like company vehicles and facilities.
  • Scope 2: These gases come from indirect use — think electricity, steam, heating, and cooling that’s been purchases.
  • Scope 3: These gases, meanwhile, are indirect — and come from things like purchased goods and services, transportation and distribution, employee commuting, end-of-life treatment of sold products, and waste generated in operations.

By keeping track of your carbon footprint, you can effectively find ways to make it smaller. Aim to be at least net-zero. As your company becomes more sustainable, you can become a positive source for the planet that helps heal — rather than contributing to more greenhouse gases.

4. Energy Consumption

Measuring the energy used in everything including your factories in the production process, offices and transportation is a great KPI to measure your sustainability.

By tracking the kilowatt-hours (kWh) at a factory, you can find areas to lessen the energy used — and even find a more sustainable way to power your facilities.

This will not only help you to track your environmental impact but it will also help you track where your money is going — potentially helping you save some dollars.

5. Load Density

Load density essentially tracks your shipments and transportation of products or services, ensuring that you’re moving as much as possible at a time.

This makes it so you maximize your transportation. You’re saving time, money and resources by not making more smaller trips that use up these elements. By evaluating your brand’s load density, this KPI can help you streamline transportation processes.

If you find your load density is on the lower end, you can utilize less than truckload shipping — where you share shipping space with other companies on trucks — instead of a full truckload. This is not only more cost-efficient but also saves vital resources for all parties involved.

6. Water Use

Although water is thought of as being one of the Earth’s most plentiful resources, when it’s polluted it takes massive amounts of energy to make it clean and usable again. Polluted water also has detrimental effects on the planet’s natural systems — including waterways and the ocean.

Key performance indicators for your company’s water consumption to track include:

  • Amount of water used
  • Percentage of recycled
  • Percentage of water wasted
  • Percentage of water reused
  • Percentage of water returned unpolluted to the ecosystem

By tracking all different aspects of your company’s water use, you can get a true idea of your company’s sustainability impact — and find ways to make your water use cleaner.

7. Ecological Systems Impact

One of the key ideas in having a circular, sustainable brand is that you help the earth’s biological systems regrow — rather than harming them.

How has your company impacted the environment? Maybe your biodegradable waste materials are being returned to the earth as compost and helping systems flourish. Perhaps your clothing company is dyeing and washing fabric in a way that doesn’t release toxic chemicals into the environment when you release it in the world.

The way your company affects the planet’s ecological systems — whether positive or negative — will give you a strong idea of your brand’s true sustainability impact.

8. Saving Levels and Improvements

Although it’s important to track metrics that show how your energy use or the amount of emissions your company has, you should also track improvements made from year to year — and even over shorter periods of time.

If you lessened your carbon emissions by 20% over a one-year period, how did that affect your finances? It likely saved you money.

This information is helpful to show internally how your company is benefiting from more sustainable practices, and to show to customers who want to support companies that care about the environment.

9. Sustainability Assessment Scorecards

Different companies — like the Green Business Bureau — will give your brand a sustainability assessment. As your business is evaluated in areas like business practices, transportation and more, you are given a true view of your brand’s sustainability KPIs.

These scorecards assess smaller individual key performance indicators and show you on a scale how sustainable your brand is. They’ll highlight areas where your company excels — and others where you can improve.

By giving your brand a rating, you can find ways to fine-tune your business and become even more sustainable. Remember, circular design is all about constant design and improvement — so a scorecard assessment can show you exactly what areas you need to improve and succeed.

10. Track Products at the Item-Specific Level

When every product has a unique ID — such as those enabled with Blue Bite Circularity — it is easy to track the product at every stage, from sourcing and manufacturing through the end of product life.

When tracking is this exact, you can see how your products are being produced and used today, and how you can improve these uses in the future. For just one of the many examples, you can now track how often an item is resold or recycled when you get the consumer involved in your circularity initiatives. You can improve these initiatives by encouraging consumers to keep your products out of landfills.

By using key performance indicators both big and small from throughout the different stages of the production process, brands can measure their true sustainability impact. Whether it’s measuring the water recycling rate or the land use and greenhouse gases from farming, these metrics will help your brand know your true impact on the environment.

When brands are empowered with this data, they can use it not only to share with consumers who are passionate about supporting brands that are environmentally-forward, but also to continually improve upon their designs.

With a circular design, the process of updating and improving products for continuous use never ends. Sustainability KPIs are just one piece of the puzzle toward making your brand a leader in the circular economy.

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