Starting down a sustainability path can seem daunting for public sector organizations, but this journey is imperative for the future success of their operations as well as the well-being of our planet. By adopting a well-rounded strategy towards economic, social, and environmental challenges, we can help achieve public sector needs without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to do the same. This can allow us to support the future health of our economy, our people, and our planet. Fortunately, there are public funding opportunities in the U.S. which can help state and local governments, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and Tribal nations with their sustainability journey.
Leveraging public funding for sustainability
At Cisco, we support our public sector customers as they plan and execute their sustainability strategies, and one of the ways we help them is by exploring funding for those plans through our Cisco Public Funding Office. Every day, Cisco leaders in government and education explore grant programs in the U.S. that collectively award more than $500 billion annually.
In 2015, the United Nations (U.N.) set 17 goals for sustainable development around the world. These goals address human, business, and environmental concerns and are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. A charter member of the U.N., the U.S. provides support for U.S. organizations that are contributing to the efforts to achieve global sustainability goals.
Best practices for sustainability in the public sector
At Cisco, our purpose is to power an inclusive future for all. We want to help our public sector customers find resources that can help them contribute to a more inclusive and sustainable future. To do that, we continually share our extensive experience with public funding as well as best practices we have discovered along the way. When our public sector customers come to us with questions on where to start with their sustainability efforts, we’re glad to offer them the following advice.
- Establish a baseline. You can’t get anywhere without knowing where you’re starting from, so it’s important to establish a clear baseline before embarking on this journey. It may take some effort, but it is important to begin by reviewing and documenting your organization’s current environmental impact. That baseline can allow you to track your progress and identify areas that need improvement.
- Set realistic goals. Set processes in place for measuring and reporting progress to keep your organization accountable. Follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal methodology, which requires goals to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You should also set a platform for communicating progress to stakeholders. This should include employees, residents, other users, and private entities that may partner with the public sector. This can be as simple as periodic postings to your website or as extensive as a more sophisticated online platform that can be accessed at any time.
- Make sustainability part of your culture. Addressing sustainability should start at the top with leadership guiding initiatives that infuse your culture with a sustainability mindset, setting you up for greater success. You should also consider employees as a major stakeholder. It’s important to get their buy-in early to make sustainability an integral part of your organization’s DNA. You can infuse sustainability into your culture by providing training and education, encouraging participation in sustainability initiatives, recognizing and rewarding sustainability behaviors, and more.
- Consider supply chains and expenses. An organization’s sustainability journey should focus on its own operations and value chain — suppliers, distributors, and customers. Sustainability requirements should be embedded in the supply chain process and support continuous improvement.
- Be aware. Making updates or changes to your overall environmental impact can be costly initially, but cost-effective in the long run. Incorporating public funding opportunities can make a significant difference. There are more than 1,000 programs in the U.S. that award money to organizations that are implementing sustainability programs. Funding opportunities include grants, bonds, and other financial vehicles.
- Continuously improve. Sustainability is not a one-and-done project that has a start and a finish. It’s an ongoing journey and a cultural mindset for public sector organizations that pursue it. As goals are reached, it’s important to set new ones and not lose ground on previous achievements. When looking to the future, explore new technologies, engage with stakeholders, and stay up to date with sustainability best practices.
As you start your journey, remember it’s not just about people and the environment — sustainability can also benefit your organization’s long-term success. By adopting a clear process and setting realistic goals early, you can establish accountability beyond the initial rollout to achieve better outcomes for all stakeholders.
Our Cisco public funding experts are here to help you reach your sustainability goals in a cost-effective way. We encourage you to reach out to us or visit Cisco’s Public Funding Office to learn how we can support your organization in identifying grants, bonds, and other funding sources that align to your programs and technology needs. Together, we can make a difference for people and our planet.