Port Authority of NSW’s Sustainability Plan

Port Authority’s Sustainability Plan is the product of a new approach, acknowledging the role staff and stakeholders play in implementing the plan, and utilising co-design activities to engage all parties throughout the planning process. It incorporates contemporary thinking in organisational dynamics, design, and sustainable development into a coherent, strategic plan.

Design Challenge

In late 2019, Port Authority committed to publishing a Sustainability Plan by mid 2020.

Port Authority saw this initiative as an opportunity to shift ways of thinking and working across the organisation; helping to achieve its goal of being a robust and sustainable organisation with a culture that is honest, open, caring and accountable.

Our primary challenge was to design a Sustainability Plan that:
a) Staff and stakeholders feel ownership of and will act on.
b) Integrates sustainability into Port Authority’s culture and operations.

Our second challenge was to support the Port Authority’s commitment to sustainability planning despite COVID-19 challenges.

Design Solution

We worked with 67 internal and external stakeholders to co-create a Sustainability Plan that includes:

  1. 44 social, environmental, economic and organisational initiatives prioritised by staff across the organisation.
  2. An implementation framework to help operational teams design and implement each initiative together with communities and partners.
  3. An operating model for continuous planning, monitoring and reporting.

We were deliberate about the design and execution of everything we did — from how we set up and operated as a Sustainability Working Group, through to online workshops and tools used to maintain momentum and deliver this work during COVID-19 lockdown.

Design Impact

Embracing a design mindset and approach enabled Port Authority to create a Sustainability Plan that:

  1. Describes the collaborative journey it should go on to help ensure a positive legacy for future generations.
  2. Provides a roadmap and operating model for embedding sustainable practices and decision-making into its organisation.
  3. Inspires staff to act because they were actively involved in creating it.
  4. Demonstrates the open and accountable culture Port Authority aims to embed.
  5. Demonstrates digital ways of working, reducing Port Authority’s carbon footprint as a quick win and giving staff confidence that it can be done.

Other Key Features

The open, collaborative approach we demonstrated with this project is not only a new way of working for Port Authority, but is a novel approach to ‘sustainability planning’ in general.

For many organisations ‘sustainability planning’ results in a document describing high level goals, but does not intentionally change mindsets and behaviours along the way. Because Port Authority created an open platform for staff who are passionate about sustainability to step forward and take an active role in the planning process, we saw positive shifts in behaviour and action across the business before the Sustainability Plan was even finalised.

“Initially I thought we were after a glossy PDF, but since undertaking the process, the real plan is to have our employees engaged, setting their own targets, and being able to achieve more than just our group could ever imagine.” — Project sponsor

Port Authority’s continued commitment to working openly and collaboratively will also ensure all staff and stakeholder interests are considered beyond the planning process, right through into the design and implementation of each initiative in the Sustainability Plan.

Port Authority will publish its Sustainability Plan internally and externally, demonstrating its commitment to achieving better social, environmental, organisational and economic outcomes.

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