On Wednesday, June 10th, Kathryn Cooper from the Sustainability Learning Centre joined us to educate our guests on how to implement the Sustainability Culture Gap Assessment using the Embedding Project. Kathryn covers what the Embedding Project is, how some companies use the information from the assessment to shape their sustainable operations and other useful tools. Interested in implementing the embedding assessment into your organization? Read on to learn more!

What is the Embedding Project & Why Do We Need It?

The Embedding Project helps to implement sustainable practices across company operations and decision-making. Did you know that 93% of CEOs think that sustainability is important to their company’s future, yet they still struggle to implement sustainability throughout their everyday operations? Embedding sustainable processes doesn’t have to be such a drastic change in the way a business functions, there’s still room for improvement – no matter how big or small these changes are. See the diagram below for an example of just how small these changes can be:

Take a look at the diagram below, there are 13 pathways that represent the larger pieces of the embedding pie, and 64 practices that portray the smaller pieces of the pie. These intricate pieces of the pie represent 3 paths to maturity:

  • Low-sustainability: a reactive approach where you might be starting to recognize that you need to develop or improve the organization’s sustainability practice. 
  • Mid-sustainability: more proactive, sustainability seems like less of an after-thought, and you’re starting to reflect on your own operations.

Final Stage: your organization is becoming quite well-rounded on the sustainability front. Your green practices are embedded in the culture and company systems.

Where is your organization on the path to maturity? Do you have strong sustainability practices, or are there places where you could improve? The maturity visualization below will help you understand where your organization should focus its efforts. Be sure to concentrate on the practices and pathways with lower maturity scores (represented in yellows and oranges) as those pathways need more work to be brought to life. You can organize your efforts and assign them to 6 different categories: Not Embedded, Tactical (Ad hoc), Beginning to Embed, Embedded, Well Embedded, and Transformational.

How Companies Use Information From the Embedding Assessment

In 2013, Teck, an IT company, joined the Embedding Project because the organization wanted to evaluate where the company stood on the sustainability front. Teck wondered how they could close some of the gaps in their pieces of the Embedding Project pie. From 2013-2014, they worked hard and went from only embedding 1 pathway, and beginning to establishing 5 other pathways to reaching their goal of 5 pathways in 2014. Later on that year, they began to implement 6 other pathways to improve the organization’s sustainability processes. By the end of 2014, the company had embedded all of the pathways that were pertinent to them. You can read more about their journey to sustainability here.

Completing the Embedding Assessment & Embedding Pathways Plan

An important part of the Embedding Assessment is being able to develop an understanding of what it would look like for your own organization to operate in a way that adheres to environmental limits and enhances social foundations. Plus, you can create a plan to help your organization move towards his future state. To help plan, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you envision future sustainability scenarios to inform what you do today?
  2. Have you identified your priority material, economic, environmental and social issues based on an understanding of positive and negative influences on the ecosystems and the social systems you operate in?
  3. Have you set organizational and business unit goals and targets that address environmental limits to enhance social foundations?
  4. Do you integrate sustainability into your core strategy-making process?

Want to learn more? Download the guide for Embedded Strategies for the Sustainability Transition.

Completing Your Sustainability Gap Assessment

Now that you’ve assessed how your company can shift to become a more sustainable organization, it’s time to put your assessment into action.


Build internal capacity to revisit and evaluate past sustainability efforts and mistakes. Put mechanisms in place to encourage and enable your employees to provide input on how your sustainability performance might be improved.


Find ways to improve your organization’s sustainability performance by thinking systemically and even consider the lifecycle of your products and services. Then, develop formal and informal channels to empower your employees to participate in this process. This phase would be part of the ‘Beginning to Embed’ part of your action plan. You may decide to research and share success stories of other companies or the beginnings of success for your own organization. You can also give employees a chance to experiment and voice their ideas with the Ignite Tool, Spark Change agents, and integrating sustainability into LEAN processes.

Connect Outwards

Gather and exchange information with stakeholders outside of your organization and make use of localized environmental standards to benchmark and improve your organization’s performance. Plus, with this strategy, you can evaluate the performance of others.

Engage LeadersIdentify and support formal and informal leaders across the organization and educate those executives on how sustainability helps them, the organization, and its customers. Engaging leaders will also help them contribute effectively to making the changes needed to further your sustainability progress. This pathway is also part of the ‘Beginning to Embed’ phase. In this phase, you can share proof points to your executives or use teach agents through the Toolkit initiative. Want to know more about supporting your executive leaders? Download the PDF here!

Completing the Embedding Assessment: Embedding Pathways


Develop an understanding of what it would look like for your organization to operate in a way that adheres to environmental limits and enhances various social foundations and create a plan to help your organization move towards its new state. Stuck on how to plan your path to sustainability? Take a look at this helpful strategy guide!

Build Readiness

Prepare employees for their role in supporting your organization’s sustainability vision by educating them about the positive and negative consequences of particular actions. By doing this, they will understand how sustainability applies to their everyday work and will challenge their existing assumptions about sustainability.

Shape Identity

Build sustainability into the fabric of your organization by explicitly referencing your practices in your mission, vision, and values. Create a brand guide along with corporate communication about your sustainability vision. Once this is established, you can encourage the development of a cohesive narrative about sustainability that can help you shape the sustainability journey. The Embedding Project has this awesome storytelling guide to help you understand what storytelling looks like in practice, why stories are important for embedding sustainability, and more!


Take action to communicate the importance of sustainability to your employees from the creation of external commitments and establish internal processes for follow up and recognition of individual and team sustainability efforts.


Invest in resources to ensure that the organization’s overall sustainability commitment adapts with its on-the-ground actions that your company is working to positively impact both its workforce, the environment, and society.

Manage Talent

Make investments to ensure that your employees possess the competencies and knowledge needed to support the organization’s sustainability vision by including sustainability in the recruitment and onboarding process by providing professional development opportunities. Plus, it’s a great idea to give your current employees new training for your sustainability vision to ensure that all employees are on the same page.


Establish accountability for delivering your organization sustainability vision by establishing sustainability roles, allocating responsibility to senior leaders, and translating organizational goals and targets into employee responsibilities. Support accountability by incorporating sustainability criteria into both compensation and promotion.


Build sustainability into your company’s plans, policies, and processes that guide and support daily operations.

Assess Progress

Build an understanding of where your organization is, where it needs to go, and whether it is on the right track to get there by capturing, storing, analyzing, and reporting sustainability data. To ensure the accuracy of the data, you’ll need to be sure that data is being rigorously analyzed.

Now that you’ve learned how to use the Embedding Project within your organization, we’re excited to see how you’ll establish this strategy within your company and its culture. Want to learn more about sustainability in the workplace? Keep an eye on our events page for future webinars!