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Chapter 07

Crunch! Measure what needs to get done.

As we all know, only what gets measured gets done. In this chapter, we are covering how to set up and track your goals and activities behind it, how to decide which data you need to know if you are on track, as well as the challenges of measuring non-measurable topics and dealing with them.

After this chapter, you…

  • have your indicators in place as well as the systems to track them and the people responsible for them
  • know which topics are easier and harder to come by with measurement

Why do it at all?

But, first of all, why measure your progress at all? As we said, and all know ourselves, too – only what gets measured gets done. If you set up your goals and activities and have no means to see if you are actually on track – then all your effort is in vain.


Measuring helps to track and assess progress, to evaluate your trade-offs and make them comparable, to find, assess and remove barriers, to be able to communicate your progress and the benefits around it, and, last, to encourage more buy-in from your stakeholders if they see clear, measurable progress.

Accountability and Responsibility

Actually tracking your progress and having your reporting processes in place is just as important as developing them. For that, you need to also have your accountability structure and responsibilities in place: Who is responsible for sustainability overall? Who is responsible for achieving the targets? Who is responsible for collecting and tracking the numbers? Make sure to clearly define those responsibilities at the start.

Progress and Impact

Basically, there two things that you want to measure: the progress you make against the goals that you’ve defined for your startup and the impact that this progress has had on your ecological, economical, or societal environment.

For the most part, setting up sustainability KPIs measuring the progress you’ve made will be straightforward, e.g. the amount of energy or water saved, reduced churn, or higher gender diversity.

However, there are other topics such as “prevented diseases”, “increased life quality”, or “improved health” that are more difficult to measure as they are the direct or indirect impact of your activities. Measuring these impacts is a science in its own right and would require just another playbook.

Obviously, measuring and actively managing the progress you make against your own targets is much easier than claiming responsibility for the positive effects you may have had on others or on the state of the environment.

So, developing KPIs representing your impact rather than relative progress compared to the status-quo-ante will only be feasible where you can quite easily attribute your activities to the direct benefits for third parties.

How to measure progress


To measure progress, you need to draw a baseline first. What is your status quo towards the goals that you have set yourself? Getting the baseline right enables you to

  • start your sustainability journey, and
  • requires knowing what to measure and where to get the data from.


Reporting line

When identifying the data sources you want to work with, make sure to only use proxies if direct data is not available (e.g. electric meter instead of electricity bill, working time records instead of payroll accounting) and make sure to set up adequate reporting lines:

  • How often?
  • For whom?
  • By whom?
  • How is the data collected?

Ideally, these reporting lines are automated and digitalized right from the start.

Additionally, you might find it worthwhile to apply data systems that allow you to consolidate and monitor the data that you want to manage. Click here for an overviewof the best software solutions on the market. And here, if you want to focus on measuring and reducing your carbon emissions. However, for the beginning, a smartly drafted Excel spreadsheet should also do the trick.

Embed it in the core

Next to the differentiation between progress and impact KPIs, another decisive aspect is to integrate any KPI into your overall company management systems and goals.

Do not let them run separately as “sustainability measures”, but make them part of the core of your business.


  • Integrate your KPI reporting in investor meetings and board presentations.
  • Link your KPIs to your compensation schemes or simply integrating the progress that these KPIs measure into your company’s purpose and mission statement.