Blog·Company Culture

July 10, 2019

Sustainability in the Workplace

Sustainability in the workplace can have positive effects on employee engagement as well as the environment.

Have you noticed the ever longer and warmer summers? How about the long-lasting cold winters? If you have not watched Our Planet, the effects of climate change are becoming more tangible every year. As stated in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change: ” Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C “ And the experts warn that if we do not make a radical change we could reach a 1,5°C difference by 2030 and face a risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

Sustainability at work and employee engagement

Similarly, people are increasingly looking for jobs that provide them with a meaningful purpose. Alignment of personal values and work can have a strong positive impact on employee engagement. In fact, according to a study by EY 89% of executives they surveyed said “strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction”.

The study further explains that leaders today face a challenge of revising the corporate-society contract with society and contribute to the societal wellbeing in a relevant way. In fact, companies that prioritize having a strong purpose tend to outperform those that do not. If you are still unsure here are some further benefits of sustainable workplace.

Furthermore, talent retention and high employee turnover prove to be a challenge to organizations. As mentioned above, employees are increasingly driven by finding a higher purpose in their work rather than just financial stability and praise. Thus implementing sustainable initiative and finding ways how to lower greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint in your organization can have positive effects on employee engagement as well as the environment.

Sustainability - fact

Companies pioneering sustainable behaviour

As stated by Bristol Green Capital just in Bristol over 900 companies pledged to work towards the shared vision of a sustainable city and reach zero-net carbon footprint by 2050. Increasingly more and more companies are linking their social responsibility with sustainability in the workplace to try to reverse the climate change and create purpose in their organizations. Through taking care of the community and the planet businesses can also drive profitability and growth.

According to an article by a professor CB Bhattacharya and Paul Polman, the key to creating a sustainable company is to get all employees personally involved in day-to-day corporate sustainability efforts. As they explain companies such as IBM, Mark & Spencer or BASF are implementing sustainability into every employee’s job making a sustainable business model the new norm. Whole company cultures of businesses including Patagonia are rooted in sustainability. These companies embrace radical transparency, source ethically and create products that are expected to last for years.

And on top of that, academic research implies “that the more an employee perceive their organization to be involved in sustainability, the more likely they will feel a positive attitude towards the organization which may influence their behaviour.”

Sustainability - pioneering sustainable behaviour

How to develop an effective sustainability programme in your organization

To develop an effective sustainability programme in the workplace in your organization it should include these 3 types of programmes:

  1. Role-based imperatives targeted to those employees that can drive direct change
  2. Broader work-related initiatives that drive awareness and include entire organization
  3. Personal initiatives that link professional and personal life

Sustainability - stepfs for an effective sustainability plan

1. Role-based imperatives targeted to those employees that can drive direct change

Provide your employees with training on sustainability. Your sustainability programme will not work if the entire workforce is not onboard. Organize lunch and learn events, share digital resources, or encourage discussion among your employees. Cultivating Capital created a list of useful videos you can start with.

Empower your employees to take initiative and come up with new solutions to create a more sustainable business. Implement the solutions. It is likely they will have not only positive effect on the environment but also saves money for your business. You could also create a green team in your organization that will take the ownership of and manage work sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability - role-based imperatives

2. Broader work-related sustainability initiatives

In order to make the sustainability truly embedded in your company culture it is essential to promote it internally and externally. Firstly, ensure that your company mission reflects your values. You can use an employee engagement survey for this. Secondly, praise and recognize the efforts made across internal communication channels and provide proactive employees with rewards. Facilitate external channels such as social media and local TV or newspaper to share the efforts with the wider world. It will help you develop a reputation for caring for the right thing, attract talent as well as you might inspire other organizations to implement sustainability into their workplace.

Reducing impact of your organization can be a scary and longsome process. Fortunately, there is a myriad of resources and companies that can help you make this happen. Large companies such as Deloitte as well as smaller companies such as Cultivating Capital, Southwest Environmental Limited or Eunomia in Bristol can help you develop a tailored strategy for your business.

Sustainability - broader initiatives

3. Personal initiatives that link professional and personal life

Enable your employees to follow their personal values in their workspace. Enrich their experience with an opportunity to volunteer and participate in local causes and non-profit organizations and charities. However, you have to make sure they are aware of these opportunities and communicate them in an inclusive dialogue. If you want to get involved with local causes that fit your business vision but do not know where to start you can find an organization that will help you get involved with your community.

In Bristol, Semple partner local projects with businesses and volunteers to ensure they get the support they deserve.

Lastly, make sure to develop a matrix to measure the environmental effectiveness of your sustainability programme as well as its impact on employee engagement. An easy way to do so is to create an employee engagement survey targeted on your sustainable initiatives.

Environmental issues are everyone’s problem, although it is not enough for individuals to implement changes to their lives. Businesses should lead this change.

Sustainability - personal initiatives

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