sustainability in business

The Road to Sustainability in Business

Are you a firm believer that sustainability is important for the company, but that it’s always someone else’s task to handle it? Unsurprisingly, you are not alone. Although most organisations talk about carrying sustainability programmes —integrating environmental and societal affairs into their business culture — very few companies actually walk the walk. Coming as no surprise to anyone, carbon emissions emitted by the world’s largest corporations are increasing, and only 1/3 of the 600 largest companies in the United States have some kind of systematic sustainability oversight at an executive level.

Companies that are actually interested in winning the sustainability battle have already created opportunities for their stakeholders in order for them to own sustainability. These organisations have decided that sustainability is not someone else’s problem. There are a few ways in which a company can stop with the rhetoric and actually take ownership of sustainability.

For example, there is psychological ownership and it refers to feelings of attachment and connection that we develop towards an appealing matter such as a person, company, or even an idea. Recent research has revealed that feelings of organisational ownership can lead to greater levels of job satisfaction, engagement, profits and productivity. This causes ownership to be an impressive approach for those who wish to galvanise a company around sustainability. Daily confrontations with the already inevitable climate change and other serious issues that may cause us harm, the majority of us have an unquenchable thirst to do something about it but we do not know how.

In terms of attracting and retaining top talent, organisations may offer good pay and benefits, but they could not stop there. They can also offer an interesting perk such as working towards a higher objective. Employees nowadays are looking to feel good about their work and wish to make a larger contribution to the world. They believe that by being part of something meaningful is really rewarding. Through sustainability, they get the chance to feel better regarding their job within the organisation.

Their feeling of happiness represents a firm’s bottom line. Employees who are the most committed to their jobs put in 57% more effort on the job and are 87% less likely to resign this according to the study done by the Corporate Executive Board.

Sustainability can be intertwined into a corporate culture. Michelle Montakhab, the Vice President of People and Culture at Nutiva, has said that their company that has hired no less than 60 people in the last year. Montakhab has stated that people have mentioned the company’s social policies numerous times, one example being that 1% of their sales go to sustainable agriculture, as a reason they want to work there. New employees quickly learn how sustainability works at their California headquarters due to the simple fact that new hires end up with their lunch waste on their desk because they didn’t sort it properly.

Christopher Crummey, the worldwide director of sales at IBM, has said that companies that engage in social and environmental stewardship also benefit from higher employee engagement levels which are directly translated into cultural engagement. Innovation is directly involved in how organisations engage their employees.

In another example, the sustainability chief at the Old Mutual, a financial services company, has organised a meeting with over 40 future leaders and revealed to them that, through their loans and other services used, they were having a tremendous impact on their customers. Managers could see first-hand how through their daily activities, they were changing lives for the better. This insight offered to the managers, led their teams to believe they came into work to do more than just add numbers. It was a very effective way in which they realised their business was about more than making money, which is the type of information that allows companies to begin the conversation around ownership of sustainability.

And there are many ways in which to stimulate a sustainability ownership experience. In the case of Marks & Spencer’s company-wide “Make Your Mark” initiative, have paired employees with young people who were looking for a job and who required help to develop their skills and confidence. At the beginning of the campaign it was seen as just a small initiative, but it has become an integral part of Marks & Spencer’s culture, with an incredibly long list of employees waiting to become ‘buddies’ with young people. Furthermore, the company offers autonomy to local stores in order for them to come up with campaigns better suited for the communities’ needs, which in turn makes the shop floor employees take ownership of sustainability.

And research is backing up this idea. A LinkedIn and Altimeter combined study has revealed that when employees feel inspired and empowered, they were 20% more likely to remain at the company. Employee turnover still costs companies between 70% and 200% of an employee’s annual salary, according to numerous data calculations.

However, most employees apply a cost-benefit calculus (the aforementioned ‘what’s in it for me’) to decide how to act and please their superiors. Due to the fact that the business world is dominated by maximum profits, this calculation often influences employees to in a manner in which their organisations uphold. This leads to employees’ values coming in second place. A recent study of young employees has discovered that in many instances, employees get to the point in which they suspend their own values temporarily with the belief that a commendable result will justify the questionable means by which it was achieved. These types of employees were never offered a chance by the company to voice their ideas, values and to question the work they were asked to do.

It is of great importance for company executives and managers to lead by example in sustainability initiatives and programmes because research shows that stakeholders, including employees (which are a tremendously important aspect), are generally sceptical in regards to a company’s motivations for getting involved in sustainability initiatives. Some employees are or may be persuaded to put aside their scepticism and embrace such initiatives only when they are absolutely convinced that the organisation has sincere motives for making a difference. In layman terms, when it comes to sustainability, leaders’ actions are more valuable than words and play a quintessential role in signalling and passing on organisation values to employees.

There is a real value in providing companies with the tools to carry out regular organisational assessments and this is where Great People Inside comes to your aid. Our online platform offers the best solutions and tools for your company to thrive in every type of industry and any possible situation your organisation may find itself. In terms of lowering your employee turnover rates, we recommend our GR8 Full Spectrum assessment for hiring and 360° Survey for retention. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and a keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.

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