Sustainability Action Plans

Creating a Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) is one of the key components to becoming a signatory firm to the 2030 Commitment, and should be submitted within six months of signing on. At its core, an SAP is a statement of a firm’s approach to sustainable design. It provides an opportunity to think through—strategically and methodically—how to translate sustainability values and aspirations into a comprehensive approach for transforming a firm’s practice and portfolio.


Specifically, the SAP serves as:

  1. An actionable, firm-wide strategy for developing sustainable design best practices.

  2. A measurement framework with a continual focus on evaluation, adaptation, and improvement.

  3. A long-term planning tool to ensure ongoing alignment of values, goals, and practice.

  4. An information-sharing platform that enables communicating firm values to clients and peers.


After reviewing examples of SAP documents from other firms, consider the following process and recommended framework in developing a SAP: 


1. Engage the Firm


Hold an initial all-staff brainstorm, workshop, or survey covering:


  • Best Practices Review

    • What are our peers and competitors doing that we can emulate or improve upon?


  • Firm Values and Goals

    • How do we understand sustainability and our firm’s areas of impact?

    • How does our practice/firm mission relate to the 2030 Commitment?


  • Design Process

    • What is our current process?

    • What do we want our process to be?


  • Design Standards

    • What do we want our buildings to be/do?


  • Structure

    • How is sustainability currently approached/structured in our firm?


  • Challenges

    • What challenges do we face in implementing goals/actions?

    • How do we currently respond? How might we best respond in the future?


2. Create the Sustainability Action Plan


Recommended Framework


  1. Firm Commitment (summary of firm philosophy as it relates to sustainability objectives)
  • How does or will sustainability relate to overall firm goals?
  • How do people know? (message/strategy/culture)
  • What are the firm’s biggest successes? What’s working?
  • How is success measured?

The following five topics should each include discussion of current practice, areas for action, and 1-5 year goals.


  1. Design & Approach (this includes design-phase analysis, Owner's Project Requirements (OPR)/goal-setting + Basis of Design (BOD))

  • How has the 2030 Commitment been integrated across the firm?

  • How are is energy modeling integrated into design process?

  • What green certifications are common practice in the firm, and how do certified projects contribute to 2030 goals?


  1. Evaluation & Reporting (this includes pEUI reporting, utility data collection and post-occupancy evaluations (POE))

  • What is the current portfolio pEUI and/or LPD and how do they compare to current 2030 goals?

  • What are the firm’s goals/targets for incremental improvement?

  • How is project evaluation and 2030 reporting handled?

  • What approaches are used to reach energy targets?


  1. Outreach & Advocacy (this is “external” knowledge sharing)

  • How are strategies communicated to clients?

  • How does the firm contribute to the sustainable design community?


  1. Training & Education (...and “internal” knowledge sharing)

  • How does the firm support staff growth in sustainable design disciplines?


  1. Operations & Outlook

  • Evaluate the firm’s carbon footprint.

  • Identify ways to reduce the firm’s footprint or increase its handprint.


3. Upload the SAP to the DDx on the “My Account” Page