The Need for Sustainability Roadmapping

Establishing corporate sustainability goals is a great start but it’s only the beginning. Set your organization up for long-term success with a strategic roadmap.

A few years back, my wife and I found ourselves with a week of time away from work and school. We had no plans, no particular destination in mind, and no reservations. We decided to pack a small bag and hit the open road. Sunshine and adventure were the only thoughts on our minds.

We set out from Ohio, meandering through Appalachia, across Virginia, and down to the Carolinas, making it as far as Kitty Hawk, NC. The early spring timeframe afforded a few days exploring deserted beaches and nearby mountain towns before heading homeward. The spontaneity provided a fantastic adventure and fond memories.

I’m confident Lewis and Clark felt a similar rush of adventure. The only perceivable differences between our trip and L&C’s famous westward survey were roads, cars, cell phones, and a disorienting amount of roadside food options.

Sweet Home Sustainability

Businesses don’t have the luxury of operating in the same carefree manner. Companies must set destinations, identify routes, and contract plans.

Many businesses understand the importance of making sustainability commitments in the form of long-term goals (see the previous article). However, many organizations fail to consider the incremental steps required to meet those goals. As a result, companies risk wasting vital resources and their reputation. Herein lies the importance of sustainability roadmapping.

A detailed roadmap should accompany any corporate sustainability goal. Since this author’s specialty is energy, let’s briefly speak about energy roadmapping within the sustainability purview.

The Energy Information Administration defines an energy roadmap as a specialized type of strategic plan that outlines activities an organization can undertake over specified time frames to achieve stated goals and outcomes. An effective roadmapping process maximizes engagement in plan creation, thereby building consensus and increasing the likelihood that those involved will implement the roadmap priorities.

Successful roadmaps contain the following elements:

  1. Goals: Targets to reach desired long-term outcomes established by the organization. Check-out the previous article for tips to create meaningful corporate sustainability goals.
  2. Milestones: Interim performance targets for reaching stated goals featuring specific dates.
  3. Gaps and barriers: A list of potential internal knowledge gaps, adoption barriers, regulatory hurdles, or other obstacles to reaching goals.
  4. Action items: Actions identified to overcome barriers that stand in the way of reaching the goals. Actions could include the development of standards or company policies, financial incentives, and public engagement.
  5. Priorities and timelines: List the most important actions to achieve the goals in the stated timeframes.

Roadmap Assistance

The roadmap development process comprises four sequential stages: 1) planning and preparation, 2) visioning, 3) roadmap development, and 4) implementation and revision stages.

Planning and Preparation

Establish a steering committee of a few key individuals throughout the organization. This provides diverse opinions and allows a space for increased idea-sharing and communication. Start by determining a clear scope, intended outcomes, and timeline. Develop energy and environmental data (see article on baselining and benchmarking). Commit members to meet regularly. Frequent touch points promote idea sharing and identify blind spots and barriers. (They’re called blind spots for a reason.)


Analyze future scenarios for energy and environmental impacts from the organization. For example, the analysis could include energy consumption projections based on future load growth. It could also include resultant applicable scope 1-3 greenhouse gas emission projections. For those uninitiated with GHG inventories, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s GHG webpage to learn more.

Roadmap Development

Conduct a workshop with the steering committee and other key stakeholders. Use the time to identify relevant technologies, applicable internal policies, and required timelines. Assess potential contributions of identified technologies and strategies to the organization’s goals. Technologies could range from energy efficiency opportunities to onsite renewable generation to storage. Include staff engagement strategies for widespread adoption.

Develop a roadmap document containing the five elements outlined above, including goals and action items. Conduct consultation cycles with key stakeholders. Be sure to refine as necessary and share widely across the organization.

Roadmap Implementation and Revision

Monitor and track incremental progress after implementing the roadmap. Continue ongoing steering committee meetings to record progress. Revise the roadmap as new opportunities arise.

An optimally designed roadmap should link any future activity to the roadmap goals. For example, consider the impact of future electric vehicle (EV) charging stations on the existing facility’s energy consumption. Consider how EVs could impact existing energy or greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.

Additional Insurance

To increase the likelihood of success consider and identify resource constraints, critical inputs such as data and technical expertise, roles and responsibilities, and stakeholder participation. For example, assign roles to specific people within departments to assert personal accountability.

Roadmaps should be the backbone of any transformational process. For more detailed information, visit the International Energy Agency’s detailed report on energy roadmapping.

After printing the roadmap, it’s time to grab the car snacks and put the rubber to the road. This means communicating the goals across the organization. Check out the next article in this series for tips executing the roadmap through stakeholder engagement and education.

You just read article number seven in a ten-part series titled Nine Beacons to Chart Your Business Towards a Sustainable Future. To start from the beginning, check-out the first article in the series. For the entire picture, download the full publication (PDF).

Are you ready to chart your sustainability journey? Could you use help creating a strategic energy roadmap that aligns with your organization’s long-term goals? Contact us today to find the right Solutions in Sustainability for you.

About the Author

Alex Kaufman is a science communicator, clean energy specialist, sustainability nerd, professional engineer, travel enthusiast, and resident of San Diego, California. When not helping clients, you can usually find him cycling, hiking, reading, spending time with loved ones, or planning the next big adventure. He is open to speaking engagements. Contact him at

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