How to get your workforce on board with your sustainability strategy

Just having a sustainability strategy won’t make you sustainable overnight. You need to turn the plan into action in an engaging manner that employees and stakeholders can get behind.


EMPOWERING COLLEAGUES TO BUY INTO YOUR SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY

As Simon Sinek, author, speaker, and marketing expert said, People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. A sustainability strategy alone is just a set of guiding principles to create a desired outcome. A good strategy is a guide, a road map that shows employees what paths to take and, perhaps equally importantly, which paths not to take[1]. Employee input can provide the missing link between strategy and execution[1].
Why is it so vital? Well, Harvard Business Review estimated in 2016 that 67% of well-formulated strategies failed due to poor execution [2]. It is therefore paramount to listen to and engage with employees (if you haven’t already started to do so).
A recent EY article articulated this well, outlining how sustainability is about nurturing a long-term mindset and connecting to a collective purpose beyond profit. Making sure everyone buys into a new vision with a thoughtful approach to balancing long-term metrics and short-term targets, providing space for people to own the vision for themselves [3].

How do you do it?

To shift the focus onto sustainability you will need to change your staff’s mindset

Start by educating colleagues on how sustainability is relevant to their day job and not just a side hustle. The success of the strategy rests on the importance of working together.

Take the opportunity to co-create values

This will enable you to fulfil your sustainability strategy. These values will feed into all aspects of decision making, including the procurement processes and they should be highly visible. This ensures everyone is responsible for integrating sustainability into the organisation.

Make sure that you focus on what is important to the business

For maximum buy in, concentrate on what is important to your business and your employees. Engage all departments to empower them to take decisions and make suggestions for their area of business.

Create a steering group

A steering group is an internal voluntary based committee, ideally with representation from across the business and at different levels of seniority. Gift them the responsibility to hold the organisation accountable and provide governance to regularly reporting back on progress.

Measure your progress

Measure and monitor your progress against your sustainability strategy through metrics and incentives. Regularly share updates with all staff and revisit progress. These should be as important as commercial targets so integrate them within your performance dashboard. It is key to communicate transparently about your sustainability efforts.





Written by Fleur Record Smith and Claire Jones, edited by Rosa Quarato and Rosie Davenport.

References and further reading

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/09/08/why-a-successful-business-strategy-depends-on-listening-to-your-employees/?sh=1faf4e8b6bcc

[2] https://hbr.org/2017/11/executives-fail-to-execute-strategy-because-theyre-too-internally-focused

[3] https://www.ey.com/en_gl/strategy/why-sustainability-has-become-a-corporate-imperative

[4] https://www.pwc.nl/en/onze-organisatie/corporate-sustainability/sustainable-develoment-goals/sdg-impact-measurement-in-six-steps/sdg-impact-measurement-background-information.html#indicators

[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/smart-meters-in-the-public-sector/an-introductory-guide-to-smart-meters-for-the-public-sector-accessible-webpage

[6] https://www.edie.net/news/7/FTSE-100-firms-increasingly-linking-executive-pay-to-ESG-measures/

[7] https://www.thesustainability.io/importance-of-sustainability-communication-and-sustainability-strategies

[8]https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315466760_The_Importance_of_Communication_in_Sustainability_Sustainable_Strategies/link/58d12821458515520d581256/download

[9]https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/assets/pdf/datasheets/salesforce-research-2017-workplace-equality-and-values-report.pdf

Claire Jones
Claire has always been interested in problem solving and using insight creatively in the storytelling process having spent her career uncovering and delivering strategic insight that makes a difference to brands, governments and not-for-profit organisations. She is currently Head of Insight at London & Partners, the business growth and destination agency for London, a social enterprise whose mission is to create economic growth that is resilient, sustainable and inclusive. She is passionate about sustainability and recently completed a Business Sustainability Management course at Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership. She is enjoying applying these learnings in her day job with London businesses and tourism partners and is keen to share them more widely with the SMEs community. Claire is also a member of the Association of Sustainability Practitioners whose purpose is to promote learning that transforms behaviour from unsustainable to sustainable practices.

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