Guide to Industry-Level Sustainability Programs

Business can have significant effects – both positive and negative — on environmental and social systems.

Business can have significant effects – both positive and negative — on environmental and social systems. For this reason, business sustainability, sometimes referred to as the “triple bottom line” or “corporate social responsibility”, is fast becoming important to business and society.

Industry associations and non-government organizations (NGOs) are responding with sustainability programs which aim to improve the social and environmental performance of participating companies. NBS’s Industry Association Council identified the need for a central source of information on these industry-level sustainability program.

NBS identified 13 sustainability programs, across four sectors, led by Canadian industry associations in June 2012. These programs are profiled in this guide. As an example of similar programs led by NGOs, the guide also profiles the Responsible Jewellery Council’s certification program.

Future iterations of the guide may include a broader set of programs such as those operated by international industry associations or other NGOs.

This guide has three objectives:

  1. Raise awareness of industry-level sustainability programs across a range of sectors.

  2. Share the experiences and advice of program managers.

  3. Highlight the program practices that research suggests are most effective.

For each program, you will find the following information:

  • Description of the managing organization

  • Objectives and scope

  • Funding model

  • Program practices

  • Related programs or policies

  • Successes, challenges and lessons learned by program managers

Who can use this guide:

  • Managers of current industry-level sustainability programs or organizations building new programs can identify best practices, understand how programs across industries are run, and learn from the experience of other programs.

  • Sustainability managers in companies can use this guide to identify sustainability programs relevant to their sector and practices being used to elevate sustainability performance within companies.

Contact Us

Please contact if you have comments or would like to nominate a program to be featured in a future edition of the guide.

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  • Chelsea Hicks-Webster

    Chelsea spent her master’s degree studying ecosystem health in Kenya and is the former Operations Manager for The Network for Business Sustainability. She’s also a certified life coach. Chelsea now splits her time between her two passion projects; sustainability writing and editing, and helping over-stressed mothers improve their mental health and find more joy in life.

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