Seven Components of a Successful Sustainability Initiatives

Through the development of multiple case studies, the NZSD found that there are seven essential components to a successful sustainability initiative. Below, a brief overview of each of the seven components is given along with some example reports and tools the NZSD developed to address each component.

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Tools and Further Information


There are many reasons why an industry might develop a tailored sustainability initiative. Export markets may require sustainability credentials to be evidence-based. Domestic residents may be concerned about sustainability performance. There may be internal pressures from the industry to improve sustainability outcomes. Thus, the first step is to clarify the purposes for the sustainability system being designed.


An industry or organisation must determine what indicators of sustainability are most important for its purpose. The NZSD has drawn on international sustainability frameworks to offer a structured list of potential indicators. The NZSD has also created tools for helping to prioritise indicators, such as Materiality Analysis.


For each chosen indicator, agreement is needed on how to measure performance. An indicator might be “water use”, for example; the industry must then agree on what uses of water count, and whether it is reported per hectare or quantity of output. The selected measures should be scientifically valid and credible to industry stakeholders (including final consumers).


The NZSD offers an on-line platform for collecting and analysing data. This is designed so that industry participants enter data from their operations, some of which can be entered by the programme from industry sources. The data can be aggregated to an industry level for comparison of industry performance against targets for each indicator.


Each participant in the sustainability initiative should be provided with individualised feedback on their performance. This typically includes historical trends and performance against targets. Sustainability initiatives should also allow each participant to benchmark their own performance against the average of similar operations (classified by features such as size of land area or geographical location).


Sustainability initiatives should be used to present material to distributors and consumers in significant markets. This may take the form of an annual sustainability report, which tracks changes in performance of the industry each year. Typically, the industry creates and maintains a dedicated website that profiles its commitment to sustainability, evidenced by its performance recorded in its sustainability initiative.


Consumer preferences, market regulations, scientific knowledge and commercial opportunities are evolving continuously. Consequently, sustainability is a journey. A sustainability initiative should be regularly evaluated so that it continues to meet the purposes of the industry or organisation. The NZSD is designed to offer flexibility for development in line with commercial opportunities.