How OKRs Drive Business Towards Environmental Sustainability

How OKRs drive business towards environmental sustainability

In today’s world, businesses are at a pivotal crossroads where the intersection of economic prosperity and environmental responsibility becomes increasingly evident.

The global shift toward sustainability compels companies across various sectors to harmonize profit-making with planet-preserving initiatives. This balance is particularly crucial for industries with significant environmental impacts.

In this blog, we’ll explore how Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are reshaping sustainability efforts and the imperative of aligning business objectives with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) responsibilities.

Balancing profit with planet: Environmental performance across industry sectors

Maintaining a balance between business performance and environmental performance is essential for companies in various industries. However, it’s especially critical for those whose operations have a significant impact on the environment. Industries should prioritize for balancing business and environmental performance with following considerations:

Energy and Utilities

  • Reduce emissions
  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Invest in renewable energy sources

Transportation and Logistics

  • Reduce carbon emissions
  • Improve fuel efficiency
  • Invest in greener transportation technologies

Agriculture and Food Production

  • Focus on sustainable farming practices
  • Reduce chemical use
  • Limit environmental impact

Construction and Real Estate

  • Promote sustainable building practices
  • Enhance energy efficiency
  • Responsible land development

Mining and Natural Resources

  • Adopt responsible mining and resource extraction practices
  • Minimize environmental impact

Chemical and Pharmaceutical

  • Minimize chemical waste
  • Ensure product safety
  • Implement eco-friendly manufacturing processes (including alternative raw materials from non-fossil sources)

Forestry and Paper Products

  • Practice sustainable forestry management
  • Responsible paper production
  • Minimize environmental impact

Technology and Electronics

  • Address e-waste issues
  • Implement eco-friendly manufacturing processes
  • Reduce carbon footprint

Automotive and Vehicle Manufacturing

  • Invest in alternative fuel (electric and hybrid) vehicles
  • Reduce emissions
  • Adopt sustainable production processes

Chemical and Industrial Manufacturing

  • Adopt clean production processes
  • Minimize waste
  • Reduce pollution

Tourism and Hospitality

  • Focus on sustainable tourism
  • Provide eco-friendly accommodations
  • Reduce environmental impact of travel

Textile and Fashion

  • Prioritize sustainable and ethical fashion practices
  • Responsible sourcing and production

For these companies, finding a balance between business performance and environmental performance is not just a moral or regulatory obligation but also a business imperative.
Consumers and investors increasingly favor environmentally responsible companies, and regulatory requirements continue to evolve.
Striking this balance helps companies reduce operational risks, enhance their reputation, and position themselves for long-term success in an environmentally conscious world.

Why do businesses move from older systems to OKRs?

Traditional goal-setting methods and less structured approaches were once common for sustainability goals but had several limitations.
These older systems made it challenging for organizations to effectively measure, manage, and achieve their sustainability objectives.
Here’s a breakdown of the limitations associated with these older systems and how OKRs and related best cultural practices can help you tackle these challenges:

Challenges in attaining ESG goals

Important note: The OKR goal-setting is not the solution to every problem but a systematic way to focus on a few key challenges at a time and dedicate your sincere efforts as a team to solve these challenging goals.

Driving sustainable success with OKRs. Explained with a case study

Having understood the power of OKRs as a transformative force in the sustainability realm, let’s take a closer look at a real-world example.

Allbirds, a brand synonymous with sustainability and innovation, provides a compelling case study. Their journey showcases how OKRs, with their customized approach, have turned their mission into measurable action, effectively aligning financial success with environmental impact.

Real-world case study: Allbirds – Sustainable Success through OKRs


Allbirds, a footwear and apparel brand founded in 2016, has rapidly become synonymous with sustainability and innovation.

Their mission is clear: to create the most sustainable footwear on the planet. In just a few short years, they achieved a billion-dollar-plus valuation while making a significant environmental impact.

This case study explores how Allbirds harnessed the power of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to align their mission with their day-to-day operations, leading to remarkable success.

Challenge: The gap between mission and execution

In a crowded and hyper-competitive footwear market, Allbirds faced the task of standing out not only for their eco-friendly mission but for making it a tangible part of their corporate culture.

They wanted to ensure that each employee’s work was directly tied to their sustainability mission, creating a real impact.

Solution: OKRs – The bridge between mission and action

Joey Zwillinger, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Allbirds, recognized the need to bridge the gap between their mission and their operations.

His key insight was that “financial success is directly correlated with the impact towards our mission.”

To make this connection explicit, they introduced Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for all 250 employees.

  • Rebranding OKRs as KIWIs

Allbirds call their OKRs “KIWIs” (Keep Improving With Intent) to make them memorable and customized. These KIWI goals dive deep into action, pushing the company to perform life cycle assessments and reduce environmental impact annually.

  • Cascading KIWIs with RIPEN

As the company grows, it uses RIPEN, a cascading system that ensures alignment from top to bottom. It stands for Retail, International, Product, Experience, and Non-Negotiables.

  • The breathe list: Essentials for survival

The “Breathe List” covers daily operational tasks vital for survival, separate from KIWIs or RIPEN. These tasks are essential for the company’s overall functioning.

Measuring sustainability: A carbon-neutral promise

Allbirds was committed to sourcing natural and sustainable materials from the start. However, they took it a step further by setting the Objective of achieving a carbon-neutral footprint for each pair of shoes.

They meticulously tracked carbon emissions at every stage of the value chain, from material sourcing to product transportation. By purchasing carbon offsets, they managed to make each pair of shoes 100% carbon emission neutral.

This ambitious goal not only reduced their environmental impact but also created a financial incentive to innovate and find ways to lower carbon offsets. Allbirds turned their sustainability mission into a quantifiable equation connected to financial success through OKRs.

Results: Unprecedented focus and clarity

Allbirds’ commitment to focus and alignment through OKRs, KIWIs, and RIPEN has yielded remarkable results. They’ve transformed sustainability from a mission statement into quantifiable actions and financial success.

Joey Zwillinger emphasizes the importance of focus, stating that companies tend to be most successful when they maintain an unbelievable focus.

Their relentless pursuit of sustainability is underscored by their certification as a Benefit Corporation, reflecting their commitment to treating the environment as a critical stakeholder in their success.

Allbirds has set a new standard by demonstrating that everything is connected – from internal processes to brand promises, consumer experiences, and their impact on the environment.

Key takeaways

  1. OKRs Align Mission and Action: Allbirds demonstrates that OKRs can bridge the gap between a noble mission and its execution, creating a tangible link between financial success and mission impact.
  2. Customization Enhances Engagement: Rebranding OKRs as KIWIs added a personal touch and made the process more memorable for employees, enhancing engagement and understanding.
  3. Focus Drives Results: The company’s relentless focus on key Objectives and Key Results has been the driving force behind their remarkable sustainability journey.
  4. Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage: Allbirds shows that making sustainability a core part of the business can lead to not only environmental benefits but also financial success and brand differentiation.

In conclusion, Allbirds’ journey serves as an inspiring example of how organizations can transform their mission into reality through the effective use of OKRs while also making a positive impact on the environment.


Comprehensive list of companies using OKRs for ESG success

Allbirds’ success story is just one example of how OKRs are driving sustainability in business. To highlight the broader impact of OKRs in various industries and regions, let’s explore a comprehensive list of prominent companies that have successfully implemented this framework for their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives.

Global Companies that have adopted OKRs to achieve environmental sustainability:


  • Google (Alphabet Inc.): Google is known for using OKRs extensively. They’ve set ambitious sustainability goals, such as being carbon neutral since 2007 and achieving 24/7 carbon-free energy by 2030.Salesforce: Salesforce has used OKRs to measure progress toward their sustainability goals, including achieving 100% renewable energy and reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Intel: Intel has employed OKRs to drive sustainability objectives, like achieving zero total water usage for their operations and pursuing 100% green power.
  • Amazon: Amazon has integrated OKRs into their sustainability initiatives, with a commitment to be net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2025.
  • Walmart: Walmart has been using OKRs to set and track sustainability objectives, including their goal to reach 100% renewable energy and eliminate waste in their operations.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft has employed OKRs to advance its sustainability efforts, aiming to be carbon negative by 2030 and remove all historical carbon emissions.
  • Unilever: Unilever has embraced OKRs to measure progress in its Sustainable Living Plan, focusing on goals related to reducing their environmental footprint and enhancing social impact.
  • Patagonia: Patagonia is a company renowned for its commitment to sustainability. They have used OKRs to drive progress toward their environmental and social responsibility goals.
  • Tesla: Tesla, led by Elon Musk, has used OKRs to drive innovation and sustainable practices in the electric vehicle industry.

Indian Companies that have adopted OKRs to achieve environmental sustainability:

  • Infosys: Infosys, a multinational IT services company, integrates OKRs into its sustainability initiatives, including reducing carbon emissions and achieving renewable energy targets.
  • Tata Consultancy Services (TCS): TCS, another major IT services company in India, uses OKRs to measure progress in reducing their carbon footprint and environmental impact.
  • Reliance Industries: Reliance Industries, a conglomerate with interests in petrochemicals, refining, telecommunications, and retail, has used OKRs to drive sustainability goals, particularly in reducing carbon emissions and promoting renewable energy.
  • Mahindra Group: The Mahindra Group, with businesses spanning automotive, aerospace, agribusiness, and more, has embraced OKRs to enhance its sustainability practices. They have set ambitious goals related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting sustainable agriculture.
  • Wipro: Wipro, a leading IT services company, has integrated OKRs into their sustainability and ESG strategies. They’ve worked on goals related to energy efficiency and carbon neutrality.
  • Aditya Birla Group: The Aditya Birla Group, with operations in various sectors, has utilized OKRs to drive sustainability objectives, including initiatives to reduce energy consumption and enhance environmental performance.
  • HCL Technologies: HCL Technologies, an IT and technology services company, has employed OKRs in its sustainability efforts, focusing on carbon reduction and resource efficiency.

Example on how to use OKRs in a company for ESG excellence

By exploring these real-world examples, we gain insights into the versatility and effectiveness of OKRs. But how can your company embark on its journey toward ESG excellence using this framework?

To illustrate, let’s dive into a hypothetical case study that outlines a structured framework of objectives and key results for a company committed to enhancing its ESG performance.

Sample case study: Universal Tech Corporation – Leveraging OKRs for ESG excellence


Universal Tech Corporation is a global technology company committed to ESG principles. They recognized the importance of aligning their business objectives with sustainable practices and decided to use OKRs as a strategic framework to achieve their ESG goals.


Universal Tech Corporation aimed to enhance its ESG performance and make a meaningful impact on society and the environment while maintaining strong governance standards.

Objective 1: Social Responsibility

  • KR1: Increase employee volunteering hours by 20% over the next year.
  • KR2: Implement diversity and inclusion training for all employees, with a focus on underrepresented groups.
  • KR3: Achieve a 15% reduction in workplace injuries through improved safety measures.

Objective 2: Environmental Stewardship

  • KR1: Reduce carbon emissions by 30% across the company’s operations by 2025.
  • KR2: Source 50% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2023.
  • KR3: Achieve a 20% reduction in water usage across all facilities by 2024.

Objective 3: Governance Excellence

  • KR1: Conduct annual audits to ensure compliance with the highest corporate governance standards.
  • KR2: Establish a board committee for ESG oversight and report ESG performance to shareholders quarterly.
  • KR3: Enhance transparency by disclosing ESG performance data in the company’s annual reports.

Implementation and results:

  • Universal Tech Corporation created cross-functional ESG teams responsible for each key result.
  • Regular check-ins and progress updates were held to ensure alignment and commitment to achieving the key results.
  • The company invested in sustainability reporting tools to measure and report on progress transparently.

Please note that this is a hypothetical case study, and actual results may vary depending on the company, its industry, and the specific ESG objectives they set.


In conclusion, the utilization of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in business, as exemplified by companies like Allbirds, stands as a compelling strategy for advancing sustainability and ESG goals.

OKRs serve as a practical bridge connecting a company’s noble mission with actionable, measurable steps, fostering genuine environmental, social, and governance responsibility. The versatility and broad adoption of OKRs, as demonstrated by global corporations and regional players, highlight their universal effectiveness.

The hypothetical case study of Universal Tech Corporation further underscores the structured framework for implementing OKRs, emphasizing that these objectives and key results offer businesses a roadmap for thriving while creating a more sustainable and responsible future for all.

author img

Ashish Kumar

Content Marketer

Hey folks, I'm Ashish, your friendly content marketer, making the goal-setting and strategy execution a bit simpler for the team players. What drives me at work is my mission to help professionals perform better with purpose-driven goal-setting and the way of working. I think every professional should have a purpose beyond monetary goals and a common vision that brings about teamwork. I work closely with my team and always try to make my write-ups more reader-centric and helpful. Away from my desk, I often go out to hike, play football, be with my family, and minimize my screen time (yeah, the internet is overwhelming!). Here is my LinkedIn if you wanna reach out to me. Read More

Author Bio

You may also like