Creating a Realistic Vision and Aligned Stakeholders to Ensure Successful Sustainability Outcomes


Service At-A-Glance

  • A visioning exercise designed to create clarity about what sustainability should do for your organization, as expressed in an outcomes statement that guides future efforts.
  • A structured, three-phased engagement designed to serve as a foundation for all future sustainability initiatives.
  • An alignment exercise to foster an agreed-upon common understanding between diverse stakeholder groups and leaders about what sustainability can realistically achieve for your enterprise.



This service is three-phased coaching and consulting engagement that culminates in a clear and mutually-agreed-upon statement of outcomes for the sustainability function at your organization. On average, it takes from 3-6 months to complete this process, but the impact will last for decades or longer. The sustainability outcomes statement is a foundational tool that operates like a social compact, guiding the efforts of sustainability leaders and satisfying diverse stakeholder groups.

The statement serves as a lantern in the fog, illuminating the sustainability path forward. The statement is derived from interviews with all stakeholder groups combined with an alignment exercise. The statement is built upon stakeholder needs and refined with our clarity-producing alignment exercise. The resulting vision of a shared future state sets the foundation for successful sustainability outcomes that stakeholders deeply desire.

Working closely with Jody Bickel, CEO and Founder of Creekbank Associates, sustainability leaders move forward with confidence and certainty. As your coach, she guides effective progress through a sequence of stakeholder interviews, vision development and stakeholder alignment to generate a clear statement of optimal outcomes. 

The results for the leader and their organization include:

  • A holistic, defensible process for setting corporate commitments and creating alignment of stakeholder expectations.
  • Clarity on the charter and expectations for their role as a sustainability leader.
  • Further insight into the opportunities and risks associated with various stakeholder interests.
  • Improved understanding of the relevance and appropriateness of current sustainability promises.
  • Clear statement of practical outcomes that represent stakeholder buy-in.

The net result of this engagement is that the organization has the necessary clarity for making well aligned promises and that the sustainability leader knows what they are expected to deliver. This positions the organization and the leader to move forward in making good on those promises. Our clients then use these results to set the stage for their subsequent decisions and resulting plans for projects and initiatives, internal team coordination, coalition development, and communication strategies necessary to achieve the vision.

This visioning process will need to happen periodically as new information flows in, the business evolves, and sustainability outcomes are achieved. Organizations and leaders may undertake this important calibration work as frequently as every 2-3 years as the sustainability landscape continues to transform rapidly.

Why Is This Service Necessary?

Right now, most organizations are struggling to meet their current voluntary sustainability commitments. Frequently, they also struggle to meet the regulatory commitments that have been imposed upon them. Many enterprises are also struggling to make clear statements about what their voluntary commitments are or should be. Corporate environmental sustainability is a relatively new idea and ESG is even newer, which leads to a lack of shared understanding across the different stakeholder groups about what sustainability should and can do for the organization. This means that there is a great likelihood that these organizations will flounder on these matters rather than execute with clarity.

There are almost no role models to follow in this fresh new world. This means the sustainability leader is often defining their role while trying to execute against it. A clear, practical, and stakeholder-aligned statement of outcomes serves both the leader and the organization well in their journey together. The alternative—a jumble of conflicted initiatives and agendas—is a recipe for considerable dissatisfaction and a damaged public reputation.

Organizations are vulnerable as they flounder on sustainability matters rather than creating clear vision with discrete steps to success. Embedded within the lack of clarity problem is the lack of alignment problem – with unaddressed positional conflicts between stakeholder groups, resulting in tensions and differing expectations inside of and reaching beyond the organization. Step One to deal with these inter-related problems is to get clarity.

After working across numerous sectors and industries and consulting with C-suite, Director, and program level roles, we have identified these common challenges for sustainability leaders:

  • An absence of clarity about the role, swim lanes and what can reasonably be expected of them.
  • An often very short runway to achieve these unclear goals.
  • Distractions, chaos and administrivia threaten their ability to deliver on the big stuff.
  • Communicating effectively with very diverse internal and external stakeholders is more difficult than they anticipated.

The overarching function of the sustainability leader is to identify the future state vision, to effectuate the enabling environment and to deliver meaningful outcomes. Our ideal client is charged with affecting this long-term positive change for their organization, and both the leader and the organization deeply value the role of a trusted guide to get them there faster and with far lower risk.



Who Needs This Service?

This service is foundational for sustainability leaders who bear responsibility to deliver on their organization’s environmental commitments and to enhance their social license to operate. These individuals deliberately work to advance environmental outcomes inside their organization. Typically, they are executive and senior-level leaders who have decision-making and budget authority and are expected to demonstrate continuous progress toward achieving public promises. This may include those serving as:

  • Presidents and C-Suite leaders
  • Partners, Principals and Executive Directors
  • Global, National and Regional Chief Officers
  • Senior Environment and ESG Leads

These are common elements our clients share:

  • Makes public claims and commitments relating to environmental stewardship and sustainability.
  • Invests in environmental restoration (for compliance and/or reputational benefit purposes).
  • Faces highly complex environmental and business conflict issues around land use, stakeholder and community relations.
  • Desires personalized advisement about change management for sustainability and stewardship issues beyond their in-house expertise.
  • Strong personal commitment to achieving meaningful environmental outcomes.



This service begins with a framework setting session between Coach Jody Bickel and the sustainability leader. The purpose of this session is to establish the overall timing and benchmarks for this three-phased engagement. After the initial consultation, Jody creates a customized plan which leverages her judgement on potential risks and opportunities throughout the process. Working in partnership with Jody, the leader progresses through the following work phases to achieve a clear vision for progress.

Phase One – Stakeholder Identification and Interviews (Information Gathering)

Working together, Jody and the sustainability leader identify each of the stakeholders whose buy-in is needed and craft a set of interview questions that will help the leader to illicit the most thoughtful responses from each of those different groups. The leader gains important advisement in preparing for, conducting and reporting on the interview process. The leader provides timely briefings on each interview they conduct and through a series of working sessions with Jody, identifies the key takeaways for creating vision alignment. Equipped with this valuable information, the work then progresses to the next phase.

Phase Two – Interview Analysis and Identification of Practical Outcomes (Vision Development)

This work period is about analyzing the phase one inputs for clear understanding of where alignment already exists and for where there are risks of misalignment. The work then progresses to the consideration of stakeholder interests relative to the sustainability leader’s sense of what is practical for the organization to achieve. Through a series of focused work sessions, Jody guides the leader in clarifying practical, meaningful and aligned sustainability outcomes of the organization’s future state. The resulting work product is the preferred statement of outcomes.

Phase Three – Stakeholder Alignment with Future State Vision (Commitment Enactment)

This final stage is about taking the preferred statement of outcomes and floating it in front of the stakeholder groups to secure buy-in. This return to dialogue with stakeholders often includes education on where they may want things that are not realistic, and refinement or further clarification of the statement. This is to ensure that the end product is just right – that it’s not too big and it’s not too small – and that it’s a statement that every stakeholder believes in even if they didn’t get everything they wished for. Through a series of focused work sessions, Jody coaches the leader in preparing for and conducting these dialogues to achieve alignment.

This sets the sustainability leader up to then select and move forward with a set of initiatives that are most likely to achieve the statement of outcomes. At this stage, the leader is in a great position to move the vision forward and can further benefit from additional coaching packages and technical project services to drive progress in targeted areas.



As your trusted advisor, Coach Jody Bickel helps you navigate through the difficult and frequently lonely terrain of charting change for your organization as a sustainability leader. This offering usually culminates in the following beneficial outcomes for our clients:

  • Clarity about the sustainability leader’s role and what is expected of them.
  • Clarity about outcomes stakeholders want to see as a result of ESG and sustainability.
  • Clarity with stakeholders about what is realistic and what is out of bounds given time, budget and talent.
  • Clarity about which public statements make sense and which should be avoided to ensure an organization’s social license to operate is not damaged through these efforts.
  • An enhanced level of support for sustainability leaders incorporated into a True North statement that they and their stakeholders can believe in.
  • Creation of alignment between leader and all of the different stakeholder groups relative to commitments.

Clarity serves as a guiding compass to ensure all efforts, initiatives and budget expenditures produce results that matter. This is an exciting time – for leaders, their organizations and their stakeholders! We know that today most organizations are not likely to hit the mark on what they have promised if they have made a promise. As a result of this service, the sustainability leader and their organization will be in a position to anticipate a much brighter future, where promises made are promises kept.

How To Get Started

Our approach for engaging with each client begins with a no-obligation initial consultation and a needs assessment. This ensures clarity of scoping and a shared understanding of risks, assumptions, variables and the timing of the work.

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