Sustainability ROI Workbook

“Senior leaders and decision-makers in business need to see a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, and a projected payback period with return on investment, before approving any major capital investment – and this includes sustainability initiatives. The “Sustainability ROI Workbook” frames the business case for environmental and social initiatives. It is a useful tool that provides key metrics for use in decision-making and helps to demonstrate how sustainability initiatives help businesses create financial value.”
Gordon Beal, Vice President – Research, Guidance and Support, Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada)

The Sustainability ROI Workbook (SRW): Building Compelling Business Cases for Sustainability Initiatives is a “book” cleverly disguised as an Excel workbook. It is a tool that helps build a business case for any sustainability-related project. Explanatory text and graphics are integrated into the Excel worksheets and in pop-up, just-in-time comments that provide guidance on how to fill in fields that require user input. The comprehensive, fill-in-the-blanks Excel workbook is the book.

The 3rd edition of the workbook (SRW 3.0) was published in December 2017. It obsoletes and replaces previous editions and has significant usability improvements.


When seeking Chief Financial Officer (CFO) approval for a sustainability-related project, proponents need to ensure that their proposal includes information required in any capital expenditure (CAPEX) request. So, the workbook includes the traditional return on investment (ROI) financial analysis of costs and benefits ― hence, its title. Plus, it includes the kind of risk analysis and opportunity analysis recommended by professional accounting organizations, to allow for environmental, social and governance (ESG) / sustainability-related factors when making resource allocation decisions in the 21st century turbulent business arena. The workbook includes a Project Appraisal Tool that helps CFOs assess how well the proposed project satisfies these more-inclusive structured decision-making criteria.

Sustainability champion-friendly

The workbook helps users identify, quantify and monetize all potential business benefits that may arise from a sustainability project.

  • Superset of potential benefits: It includes a menu of over 25 potential tangible and intangible benefits, derived from an analysis of benefits included in 20 other sustainability business case frameworks. A helpful by-product of monetizing relevant benefits is that senior decision-makers become more sustainability literate and see the usefulness of a sustainability mindset.
  • Comprehensive guidance on quantifying and monetizing potential benefits: Dozens of just-in-time, pop-up comments provide examples of direct and indirect benefits that other companies have reaped from similar projects, to help users monetize estimates of possible improvements.
  • Complete set of sustainability goals: The workbook comes with a complete set of science-based Future-Fit Business Benchmark They frame the assessment of how the proposed project helps achieve 23 cause-no-harm sustainability goals and 20 do-some-good sustainability goals. Users can tailor this starter set of goals to reflect their company’s ESG goals and targets.
  • Automatic ROI calculations: It automatically does the return on investment (ROI) calculations for the project: its payback period, the internal rate of return (IRR), and the net present value (NPV) of its future cash flows. This financial analysis tells CFOs what they traditionally need to know about any proposed project.
  • Includes risks of not doing the project: In addition to quantifying five potential risks associated with doing the project, the workbook monetizes 25 potential risks of not doing the project.

Free, open-source resource 

To expedite its use by the global legions of sustainability champions, SRW  is a self-published, free, open-source resource. Others are encouraged to use it as a foundation on which to create additional tailored versions for specific sectors, users, other technology platforms, other languages, etc. To access the workbook, click the “Download the ROI Workbook” button.  You can do this an unlimited number of times.

Other versions of the workbook, including online applications

Because it is a self-published open-source e-book, SRW will continue to be enhanced, based on users’ experience and suggestions. The Latest Workbook & Slides webpage explains how to subscribe to those updated versions and extensive supporting information in companion slide decks. For example, subscribers can download a slimmed-down version of SRW 3.0 and use it as an interactive template for a 21st century Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) Request Form. The form is available to subscribers as both an Excel workbook and as an online web-based application, for those who prefer that approach.

Other helpful downloads

Help videos for the Sustainability ROI Workbook

These help videos help users to quickly orient themselves to the workbook and use it to build a compelling business case for a sample sustainability initiative. Use the videos selectively, or watch the whole series in the YouTube playlist.

  1. SRW 3.0 – Navigation Refresher (4:00)
  2. SRW 3.0 – Introduction worksheet (13:11)
  3. SRW 3.0 – Overview worksheet (9:59)
  4. SRW 3.0 – ESG Progress worksheet (15:59)
  5. SRW 3.0 – Revenue worksheet (9:17)
  6. SRW 3.0 – Expenses worksheet (8:20)
  7. SRW 3.0 – Capital and ROI worksheet (6:51)
  8. SRW 3.0 – Asset and Market Values worksheet (3:42)
  9. SRW 3.0 – Risk Analysis worksheet (6:31)
  10. SRW 3.0 – Project Appraisal worksheet (8:53)

SRW 3.0 – Help Videos Example: This companion Excel workbook shows how SRW 3.0 would look after it has been filled in as explained in the above help videos, to create the business case for a project that does a green retrofit of a headquarters building.

Sustainability ROI Workbook LinkedIn group

This group is for anyone interested in engaging with others to exchange ideas on how to use and leverage SRW  to legitimize integrated thinking and integrated decision-making in the C-suite.