Because it takes time to establish institutional change, federal agencies need multiyear plans that continuously work to achieve, reinforce, and improve significant and persistent sustainability goals. Sustainability efforts ultimately may fail unless organizational change becomes "the way we do business." This principle is in line with organization research showing that institutional change is a multiyear process.


Institutional change is a long process that requires patience and persistence. For instance, the trial period for a new behavior must be long enough to allow people to form new habits. The key is to think long-term from the beginning. Set goals and implement activities for the first year, the next year and several years ahead. Plan to resource longer-term goals and to check with staff members for new ideas and expansion of successful changes.

To learn more about the continuous change principle, see Evidence-Based Background Material Underlying Guidance for Federal Agencies in Implementing Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans Implementing Sustainability: The Institutional-Behavioral Dimension.


The following case studies demonstrate successful applications of the continuous change principle.

Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans

Learn how the following federal agencies incorporated the continuous change principle in their 2011 strategic sustainability performance plans (SSPPs).

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Its SSPP section on environmental management illustrates short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for addressing and meeting sustainability requirements. The department also planned to develop a gap analysis tool for chief executives to determine whether the policies, guidance, and procedures being instituted were effective.
  • U.S. Department of Education: Its Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development planned to review, measure, and evaluate sustainability policies and practices periodically to assure consistency with guidance and goals over a long-term period.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: It established an executive steering committee—composed of the strategic sustainability officer, assistant administrators, and senior regional managers—to assure the continuing suitability and pertinence of the agency's response to the SSPP's goals.