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29 May. 2014 | Comments (0)

It’s vital that companies manage their impact on the planet, and most are willing to invest at some level in sustainability initiatives. But with myriad choices for how to do so, and long lists of stakeholders to please, managers struggle with a basic question: How do we decide which projects to green-light?

At UPS, management has developed what it calls a “materiality matrix” to help focus discussion and guide decisions. As described in the HBR article “Sustainability a CFO Can Love,” by the company’s chief financial officer Kurt Kuehn and Lynnette McIntire, it is used to display proposed initiatives in terms of their relevance internally to the company’s strategy and externally to outside parties. When a sustainability proposal lands in the matrix’s sweet spot, appealing highly to both external stakeholders and internal managers, it’s a safe bet that it will gain momentum quickly and yield the most positive impact.

Using the materiality matrix is one of five steps Kuehn and McIntire suggest for making sound sustainability investments. For the other four, read the full article.


This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 3/26/2014.

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  • About the Author: Julia Kirby

    Julia Kirby

    Julia Kirby is an editor at large for HBR. She is coauthor with Chris Meyer of the forthcoming Standing on the Sun.

    Full Bio | More from Julia Kirby


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