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How OKRs can measure & drive sustainability

A lot of companies are looking into sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how to improve environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). OKRs not only can help you to develop the right measurements to understand the impact of your initiatives and changes but also support to break downs these goals into meaningful and manageable ones for each department and employee to feel part of this noble endeavor.


Prioritize which sustainable development goals (SDG) you would like to pursue

The United Nations developed 17 sustainable development goals. Based on to OKR methodology we would advise you to pick maximum 3 - 5 of them which are relevant to your company and where you and your organization can have a meaningful and proven impact. Picking one could also be a start to focus on beside other company objectives.

UN Sustainable Development Goals
UN Sustainable Development Goals

Looking at our blog - The most common & impacting OKRs - you could add or replace one of these or combine e.g. education & gender related goals to employee or customer experience.

For us it is important that you do not copy and paste any goals or initiatives from organisations or other companies, but rephrase them to your specific company situation and the target you can achieve within a quarter or a year.

Finetune with environmental, social and corporate government frameworks (ESG)

Once you are clear about your overall target and area you would like to make meaningful improvements, you can start to finetune your targets based on environmental, social and corporate governance. ESG frameworks like the one from the World Economic Forum below can help to find subgoals and areas you can improve in your organisations.

ESG Framework WHO
ESG Framework WHO

Arriving at this step, it would be great to include the entire organisation is some form of ideation and brainstorming. Based on the feasibility and impact of the ideas we can narrow it down to one of the three areas we would like to tackle first. Another aspect to choose would be the measurability of a short or medium term impact as OKRs try to show incremental and motivational results rather than just long term ones.

Develop and measure key results to define the tangible outcome you would like to achieve on company/ team level

It is normally the easiest for companies to develop key results around environmental impact, measured by e.g. (miles saved, paper not used, office energy efficiency, etc.) These KRs are also simple to compare to previous quarters or years and prove a direct impact along with the some of the main sustainable development goals of the UNO.

For key results on social and governance it often comes down to the tangibility and measurability of these topics. While increase in diversity and employee benefits can be directly measured for other social topics we would suggest as a work around frequent employee or stakeholder surveys and retrospective techniques. It is paramount to create first a culture of trust in order to enhance the feedback quality and willingness. Furthermore HR measures like turnover, leave taken, sick days, etc. can also support to understand social needs or improvements. For governance dimensions we often see that the first round of KRs contain more internal topics like setting up standards or guidelines rather than achieving direct external or outcome driven KRs. This is valid as often a lot of preparation work needs to be done in order to set up processes or guidelines to follow and measure.

Brainstorm and plan initiatives to achieve the desired outcomes

After having clear objectives and key results attached to development goals and clear OKRs either in environmental, social or governance dimensions, we can ask everybody in the organisation to brainstorm ideas how to achieve them. In a true OKR environment we would allow agile ways of working, which means that teams can try and iterate different initiatives and see if the KRs are improving over time.

Based on our clients, OKRs connecting to sustainability and ESG targets can be very motivational for the employee experience and engagement as everybody in the company is not only working to improve company results but also to have a positive impact on the environment or society. This could be one of the higher goals or north star of the organisation.

For more information how to measure sustainability and to set-up meaningful objectives and key results, please contact us here or on

This blog was written by Carsten Ley, Entrepreneur, Enabler & Project Lead in Employee Experience, Project & Business Transformation leading large scale project implementations in Banking, Consulting, Project & Experience Management for companies like Deloitte Germany, VW Mexico, Rolls-Royce UK and Lazada Vietnam. He founded 2018 Asia PMO, a consulting firm focussing on getting clients fast and efficient into implementation of company objectives, customer & employee experience improvements to foster a result- and team-oriented environment.

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