Sustainability Toolkit for State and Local Associations

As the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Code of Ethics preamble tells us, “Under all is the land.” Our planet is the one resource we all depend on, as well as our heirs. The best time to care for it—and for them—is now.

Sustainability is good business, it’s that simple.

This Sustainability Toolkit is key to establishing, implementing, and building sustainability into your association.

This resource will guide you through identifying your association’s needs, building a plan to foster positive change, and specific actions and activities to help you meet your goals.

Sustainability will help your association to not only champion environmental stewardship but also promote market-based approaches to benefit your members, homeownership, and resilient development.


Cultivating a Culture of Sustainability

Man presenting a sustainability plan diagram to two coworkers in a green office space

Identifying a shared set of values and beliefs is at the core of implementing, establishing and adopting a sustainability plan that compliments and enhances organizational culture.

This toolkit will help you identify those values and beliefs, tactics, or strategies that you can all come together and support.

Three women around a conference table with reusable water bottles and greenery

An association’s culture guides the decisions of its members by establishing and reinforcing expectations about what is valued and how things should be done.

For this reason, culture is often described as ‘the way we do things around here.’ Over time, an association builds up its own culture, providing a sense of identity to its members about ‘who we R’.

Rolling Green Hills, River and Sun

Sustainability focuses on the long-term success and relevance of associations at all levels and supports the adaptability of our industry.

As with the deep self-examination and strategic work associations have done to work through similar industry issues which have resulted in long-term commitments to a pervasive cultural change, sustainability should be a lens by which we make strategic decisions and act.

What is Sustainability and Why Does it Matter?

NAR defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” but sustainability can mean something different to everyone. As you get started on your association’s sustainability plan, focus less on the definition, and more into your “Why”.

Individually, we each have our own “Why” or motivation that propels us to accomplish our goals. Your association has its own unique “Why”, informed by your location, culture, budget, goals, etc.

A sustainability plan, committee, or event should be built around your association’s “Why”. Once this is established, your association can begin to define what sustainability means to your organization.

NAR’s Sustainability & Resilience Plan recognizes that we are all individuals with different priorities and motivations. These priorities and motivations can be simplified into four major categories: People, Property, Planet, and Profit.


Think: Humanity minded, industry relevance, professionalism, affordability, disparate impacts, concern for future generations.

Woman smiling holding plants


Think: Adaptability; re-envisioning the built environment and improving resiliency; resource use; adaptive reuse.

Large dark gray house with lawn


Think: Creating a better future, big picture, climate change, risk of not acting, conservation, healthy communities.

Looking upwards at big tree


Think: Total cost of ownership, saving money and ROI on the efficiency updates, opportunity to expand business offerings.

Commercial buildings with trees in front

Understanding your sustainability mission will greatly increase your ability to produce relevant value for your members.

Review the categories above and continue into the next section, the Self-Assessment, to begin identifying your “Why” and start developing your strategy and plan for short and long-term sustainability integration.

Go to Self-Assessment