Community Resource, External Publications

Guest Essay: How Nonprofits Can Use a Corporate Sustainability Lens

Corporate sustainability is a new and growing field that uses Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors to evaluate risk and identify opportunities for operational improvement. The goal of using corporate sustainability is to strengthen an organization’s longevity and prosperity.

While corporate sustainability plans are more commonly developed for publicly traded companies in response to investor and customer demand, the framework can provide value to any organization to prepare for success in the next 10, 20, and 30 years. Nonprofits are uniquely positioned to benefit from this strategic planning lens because of their existing worldview: close collaboration is required with internal and external stakeholders to maximize impact.

Below are five ways your organization can implement corporate sustainability initiatives in 2023 without breaking the bank.

1) Write succession plans for your top 2-3 positions

Costs associated with an unplanned succession of an executive have been estimated at more than 10x the price of that executive’s salary. 10 TIMES!

Start by determining which employees’ departures would leave a critical gap in leadership that could not be sustained. Roles with limited-to-no sharing of responsibilities, individuals with unique technical expertise, or individuals that hold key relationships should be your first focus.

Make sure these individuals’ role descriptions are current, brainstorm possible replacements, and develop a plan to account for the immediate impact of losing these employees on your day-to-day operations. If there is an employee within the company who may be able to replace the affected individual, craft a development plan to ensure they have the skills and confidence to take on this new set of responsibilities.

2) Get rid of paper and go digital

500 sheets of copy paper from Staples costs $8.29. This direct cost may not seem significant, but the negative externalities of using and storing paper are much higher:

  • Paper processes can slow down your clients and employees.  
  • Confidential documents = legal liability. Hard copies present a risk that confidential information could get into the wrong hands if left out by employees or accidentally dropped in public. 
  • Additional items like ink; printer lease, purchase, or maintenance; protected file storage; and paper shredding present additional costs. 

Get started in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets by crafting a template like this.

Process nameTime impactCost impactRisk liabilityAverage ranking
Process 1
Process 2
Process 3
Process 4….

Brainstorm with your team to write all processes that involve paper under the “Process name” column. Then, go column by column and rank each process by importance (1 should be the largest). Calculate the average of the three factors to determine which processes should receive the most attention in the near-term future.

3) Develop or refresh your stakeholder engagement plan

It’s no secret that we live in a society that evolves rapidly and prioritizes speed. When confronted with a new challenge or opportunity, it’s imperative to understand which groups are most important to your organization’s long-term success and to be positioned to mobilize them to be your champion. 

Writing a basic stakeholder engagement plan can be simplified into three key steps:

  1. Brainstorm a list of all the stakeholders your organization interacts with, internal and external, that influence your success. This list should include employees, your clients, the Board, volunteers, donors, industry groups, key vendors or suppliers, government partners, and community champions.  
  2. Rank each stakeholder by importance and assign a status to the health of your relationship (green, yellow, red) as it stands today. Don’t forget to consider groups or individuals whom you may not know today but could be helpful in the future.
  3. Start reaching out! Align with each party on how they would like to be engaged, inquire about their strategic plan, and assign an internal point of contact to follow up on a schedule.

4) Collect feedback from employees regularly to measure engagement

Keeping and growing your people may not just provide benefits to your effectiveness and bottom-line but could create a flywheel effect by increasing the number of candidate referrals you get from your employees.

Tools like OfficeVibe are relatively low-cost and a great way to streamline the employee feedback collection process and get ahead of any issues. If you don’t have funds to invest, consider building an anonymous survey that is sent to employees regularly. In the survey inquire about the topics your employees deem to make an organization a “best place to work” and reflect the culture you aspire to have.

5) Gain visibility into your cyber security liability

The number and intensity of cyber security attacks is increasing rapidly—attacks are up 42% from the first half of 2022 compared to the first six months of 2021. Troubling, 82% of data breaches involve a human element

How can your organization prepare?

Companies like CyberSure are a great place to start on your cyber security journey because they can help you understand and quantify your cyber security risk. Additionally, they can provide a roadmap for strategically investing your dollars to adequately protect your organization.

If you know what you’ve got under the hood when it comes to cyber, KnowBe4 is recognized as a leader in the IT security training space and offers a host of free resources.

Honorary mention:

  • Track utility usage through ENERGY STAR (free resource)
  • Collect customer service feedback from the people you serve through online surveys or email marketing tools
  • Make risk management a regular agenda item during your leadership team meetings


About the Author

As a Senior Manager on Brixey & Meyer’s Operations, Technology and Strategy team, Matt Deptola supports organizations’ Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals through education, a performance assessment, plan/strategy development, project & change management, and advising on topics like greenhouse gas emissions & reporting. Outside of his consulting work on topics of corporate sustainability, Matt works on projects related to strategic planning, operational excellence, and social impact.

About Brixey & Meyer

Brixey & Meyer is a tax, accounting, and business consulting firm with offices in Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. The firm is one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s top 50 firms in the U.S. and Canada and earned the Dayton Business Journal’s 2022 Overall Business of the Year award. Firm services include tax compliance and consulting, fractional or interim accounting, audit, human resources consulting, retirement plan administration, transaction advisory, and operations, technology, and strategy consulting. Visit our website for more information: