This unit applies strategic planning to sustainability, resulting in plans for sustainability projects that are strategic. This means that they contribute to and align with the ‘big picture’ of the business and how it manages its sustainability performance.
In some businesses this will be the top level strategy for sustainability. Other enterprises might take these plans into account and apply further processes of evaluation, prioritisation and co-ordination to achieve higher level and/or broader strategic goals.
Being ‘strategic’ also applies to selecting / rejecting from a number of options in order to deliver the desired results.
As part of an AQF 5 qualification it is assumed that the learner will ‘… apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, judgement and defined responsibility in known or changing contexts and within broad but established parameters’. Read more about AQF qualification levels…
Demonstrating autonomy and judgement will be particularly relevant in terms of identifying and aligning the sustainability plans with the goals of the business. If there are any existing sustainability goals or strategies, these should be used. But they will need to be analysed and used to guide the sustainability plans.
The general business goals should be reviewed to identify how they relate to sustainability. There may be business goals that conflict with some aspects of sustainability, or there might be goals that support sustainability but are not acknowledged as such.
1 Determine current sustainability status of the organisation
This element is about the context for sustainability and the current state. It asks two questions: ‘Why is the business involved in sustainability? and ‘Where are we at the moment’?
It is important to know why the organisation is doing sustainability so that proposals for improvements can be suitably framed and selected. The ‘why’ might come from regulations and compliance or other drivers such as consumer demand or reducing energy costs.
Keeping up to date with changes in the regulatory environment is always important in order to remain compliant. In this unit it is critical so that new projects don’t contravene any regulations or other compliance requirements.
Finding out the current sustainability status of the business requires data. Sustainability performance indicators may already be available or the data might need to come from other sources. These might be existing data used for other purposes or new sources of data might need to be established. This could include sustainability audits if they are required because the data is not otherwise available. Note that doing a sustainability audit is not part of this unit (although is covered by other units).
Any strategic planning tools can be adopted / adapted for use here. Many of these are structured brainstorming techniques that focus on the current situation. The structure ensures that the issues are analysed from a number of defined perspectives, providing a holistic view. Examples include SWOT analysis and the De Bono ‘six hat’ tool.
Futurist techniques can also be useful. Typically they ask a ‘group of experts’ what they expect the future to be in specific areas. These forecasts are reviewed as the ‘future environment’ to identify the strategic direction. Examples include the Search Conference and the Delphi technique.
Where organisations have their own strategic planning tools, they should be used for this unit. Where that is not the case any suitable technique/s may be used.
2 Identify priority areas for improvement
This element aligns the sustainability goals with general strategic goals of a business. If they are not aligned they will have a short life. There may already be a sustainability strategy in place which makes these links; if so it can be analysed within this unit. Often however it will be a matter of analysing the general business goals and applying strategic planning tools in order to define the criteria for selecting where to focus the improvements.
Typically a business will have suggestions for improvements that have come from other activities. These might include work done with other units of competency from the Sustainable Operations qualifications that generate recommendations. Or suggestions might have come from continuous improvement processes, toolbox meetings or a suggestion box. These should all be considered.
However, if there are no suggestions they will need to be developed/determined within this unit. They do need to be major improvements. Typically ‘major improvements’ may require capital expenditure or other approvals, detailed planning, design and/or coordination. They are not the ‘low hanging fruit’ which would be covered by MSS014001 Improve sustainability through readily implementable change.
The suggestions should be ranked and shortlisted using criteria that support the strategic goals. These might include:
- profile, impact and urgency of the underlying sustainability issue
- risks to the business of the sustainability issue
- regulatory requirements (which may also be one of the risks)
- feasibility, benefits from and costs of making changes
- alignment to goals, values and key performance indicators (KPIs).
3 Establish an appropriate project team
Each suggestion needs to be scoped out and planned in some detail in order to be evaluated and moved toward approval (sanction). The employee undertaking this unit allocates each suggestion to a suitable project ‘team leader’ then oversees the team activities to achieve the outcomes of this unit.
Some organisations may have ‘team leaders’ as well as the person who is developing the strategic sustainability plans. However, in a small organisation they may one person doing the different roles.
This part of the planning defines what the proposal aims to achieve so that it can be monitored and success (or otherwise) can be determined. ‘Performance indicators’ in this context are about ‘how would we know if the improvement project is on track and if it delivers the suggested benefits?’
4 Design potential improvement
This is adding more detail to the suggestion to move it to a position where it could be submitted for sanction. Again the person undertaking this unit does not necessarily do the design and evaluation, but they do oversee the activities.
Because these are ‘major improvements’ they will need further development than a simple suggestion might. ‘Design’ means developing and validating the details of the improvement, for example:
- for an engineering / plant / equipment improvement, ‘design’ will be an engineering design following the normal process for such designs
- for a change in practice or procedures, ‘design’ may mean developing and validating the new or revised procedures
- for other ‘major improvements’ then ‘design’ will be developing the suggestion with sufficient detail and precision so that the full resource implications of its implementation can be determined and the outcomes / benefits estimated with acceptable accuracy.
The ‘evaluation’ process will depend on the type of project. There are well developed techniques for this in engineering, so these should be followed for engineering projects. Other projects might use a critical review by qualified individuals who examine the proposal for weaknesses, feasibility and things that can be improved. Most organisations will have ‘financial hurdle rates’ and these criteria should also be applied.
There should be sufficient data from these processes so that the ‘best’ projects can now be chosen as part of the strategic sustainability plan. Others might be sent back for revision or even rejected.
5 Develop strategic plan
Now a set of projects has been chosen. These align to the organisation’s goals and are likely to deliver the desired sustainability benefits. At this stage the planning focuses on getting the projects approved. This means working out the overall costs, benefits and other implications for the business. It also means planning the timelines and how the projects might be coordinated. Different approval processes might apply between the projects and different people might need to be involved over time in order to get the approvals.
As an RTO your assessment must cover all of the requirements of the unit of competency, including Elements, Performance Criteria, Range Conditions and the new Assessment Requirements. While the Assessment Requirements can be downloaded (training.gov.au) as a separate document they are part of the complete unit of competency.
The Assessment Requirements comprise Performance Evidence, Knowledge Evidence and Assessment Conditions. The Performance Evidence and Knowledge Evidence sections are self-explanatory and go some way to defining the evidence that you need collect.
However, they do not specify things such as how the sustainability improvement plans should be structured and documented or which performance indicators are appropriate.
Depending on the context the performance indicators used in this unit may be qualitative (e.g. increased awareness of sustainability issues) or quantitative (e.g. reduced tonnes to landfill or fewer environmental incidents).
The project plans might be in the form of a work plan and schedule table, a work proposal, a task list in a spreadsheet or proprietary project planning software.
The Assessment Conditions define the conditions that must apply to the assessment process, for example:
- The collection of performance evidence is best done from a report and/or folio of evidence drawn from:
- a single project which provides sufficient evidence of the requirements of all the elements and performance criteria
- multiple smaller projects which together provide sufficient evidence of the requirements of all the elements and performance criteria.
- A third party report, or similar, may be needed to testify to the work done by the individual, particularly when the project has been done as part of a project team.
- Assessment should use a real project where the determination of the carbon footprint along a value chain or portion of a value chain occurs for an operational workplace.
They also provide outline how the assessor can meet the requirements for vocational competency and currency:
- Technical competence can be demonstrated through:
- relevant VET or other qualification/Statement of Attainment AND/OR
- relevant workplace experience
- Currency can be demonstrated through:
- performing the competency being assessed as part of current employment OR
- having consulted with an organisation providing relevant environmental monitoring, management or technology services about performing the competency being assessed within the last twelve months.
Most units of competency require some skills that are ’embedded’ or assumed, or are business specific. These are required within the unit but are not spelled out in the elements or performance criteria or range statement.
In this unit they include concepts and skills such as:
- using strategic planning tools
- project planning and evaluation methods
- costing/estimating resource requirements.
You need to take these into consideration in planning your resources and delivery. You will need to determine whether your participants already have these skills or whether you need to cover them in your training and skills development activities and your resource materials.
Assessment of the embedded skills is a given; they must be assessed because they form part of the unit. In other words, if the unit is assessed correctly it will automatically include an assessment of these embedded skills.
If the embedded skills can not be demonstrated additional training, mentoring or other skills development activities might be required. In some cases these might align to other units of competency.
In developing a training and assessment strategy you need to customise a program and decide which units to package into your program and whether to group any units for delivery and assessment. You might want to cluster units; or you might want to integrate the content into modules or learning objects.
How (and whether) to group the units will vary depending on the needs of the participant, the needs and goals of the business and how it operates.
In some situations it might be useful to cluster MSS015008 Develop strategic sustainability plans with units that provide supporting skills, for example:
- MSS015002 Develop strategies for more sustainable use of resources
- MSS015001 Measure and report carbon footprint
- MSS015010 Conduct a sustainable water use audit
- MSS015011 Conduct a sustainability energy audit
- MSS015012 Conduct an emissions audit
- MSS015013 Conduct a sustainability related transport audit
- PMAOPS511 Determine energy transfer loads
- PMAOPS512 Determine mass transfer loads
In some contexts a business case may need to be put forward to management for capital expenditure and to ensure that proposed sustainability improvements are consistent with higher level strategic plans. In this situation it might be useful to cluster MSS015008 with MSS015007 Develop a business case for sustainability improvements.
Once the strategic plans have been approved MSS015009 Implement sustainability plans might apply.