When is a sustainability target not a target?
Target setting and the role of KPI's comes up in many conversations I have with organisations. There are different ways of approaching them depending on a number of factors, not least the culture of the company or organisation. Broadly there are two approaches.
1. Set targets that are achievable (and by definition more conservative).
Pros: The roadmap or route to achieve them is more certain and even known.
Cons: This may mean that the targets don't 'feel' very motivating to external stakeholders or to employees and are certainly not BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). On the flip side there is perhaps more internal pressure to achieve them because they will be treated more like conventional financial targets.
2. Set ambitious targets or BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals).
Pros: Potentially highly motivating for employees and other stakeholders. Because there are big targets the organisation may deliver more compared to a conservative one and with more step change or innovative ideas.
Cons: Acceptance of missing the targets may be too easy and in some organisations, this may mean a lack of pace.
Both approaches are sensible. Personally, I am in favour of the second one. With the emergence of climate change Science Based Targets (SBTs) it is also becoming more common. With SBTs the target is essentially set by the need to achieve the limit to the global temperature rise irrespective of whether the route is known to get to the target at the current time.
Whatever approach you take remember that transparency is king in communicating your progress.