August 21 2022
Keely Anson

Merging product strategy + sustainability

August 21 2022
Keely Anson
Credit: KOTN

Recently, we’ve spent quite a bit of time helping our companies grapple with how to align their product strategy with sustainability targets. It’s no longer enough to analyze environmental impact, purchase some carbon offsets, and call it a day. Your sustainability strategy needs to go much deeper, and it’s up to product managers and executives to lead the way.

So, if your goal is to decarbonize your company – where do you start?

Here are three strategic drivers product managers should consider when making their plans.

  1. Don't wait to be told: Being a step ahead of senior leadership or company strategy is not a bad thing. Take the time to understand stakeholders, build team consensus, discuss trade-offs, and build support across your organization. If an integrated, holistic approach to sustainability is the end goal, these efforts cannot live within a siloed sustainability team.
  2. Incentivize action: Find ways to encourage individuals and teams within your company to prioritize these efforts, and to take action. Are there internal tools to help employees figure out their individual carbon footprint? Have you developed clearly defined and measurable objectives for teams to deliver on? Accountability starts at a company level, but should thread to the individual levels as well.
  3. Customer focus: Have this conversation with your customers too. A good start is to be honest and transparent with your audience about your carbon footprint. A company is transformative if its product or service is helping customers decarbonize and reach their own sustainability goals. As a product manager, it’s up to you to figure out how a user’s experience can be improved with sustainability as the goal post.

For example, if you're a clothing brand, do everything you can to develop a fully traceable supply chain. Ensuring a clear line of custody is better for business because it guarantees living wages and safe working conditions. It’s also a more environmentally conscious decision you're making for your customer.

If you create a consumer packaged good, have a plan for your products' end of life. Creating a marketplace for used items not only extends the life-time of the product, but creates a cultural shift in how consumers think about their own consumption, as well as the waste they produce.

If you develop a fintech platform to help people manage their wealth, you can leverage software to help customers not only earn competitive market returns, but also, invest directly into ESG and climate-impact oriented funds.;heart

And cloud-based payroll, benefits and HR software can promote commuter and bike share benefits, offer home energy assessments for those who work remotely, and be an incredible catalyst to spur employees to take individual climate action.

As we celebrate truly historic climate action from our federal government, now is the time for each of us to do more as leaders at our own organizations. There's never been a better time to build, or add to, the sustainability, decarbonization, and climate-friendly efforts within your product, operations, and services.


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