Sustainability is the buzzword of the moment, but with good reason. The environmental crisis we find ourselves in is only getting worse, and unless the world collectively makes changes, the impact on the planet will be devastating.
Businesses are already starting to pave the way for better practises and implementing sustainability policies to encourage staff at all levels to do their bit for the environment. It’s a change that can not only help the planet, but a well-considered sustainability policy can also enhance company culture.
What is a sustainability policy?
Before we examine the benefits, what exactly is a sustainability policy and why is it something more businesses should be implementing? At its core, a sustainability policy is a business’ commitment to certain standards that will help it meet its legal, social and environmental obligations. It outlines how the company intends to promote more responsible operations and reduce its impact on the planet and its local community.
Sustainability policies examine the challenges that society faces on a global scale and look at how it can respond, such as the depletion of natural resources, human rights issues, energy security and waste disposal.
The goal of implementing a corporate sustainability policy is for businesses to commit to using natural resources responsibly, invest in the wellbeing of the planet and treat anyone involved in the business fairly. It’s something that can truly benefit a business’ long-term growth and profitability.
There are many ways that businesses are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint, from installing specific renewable energy solutions that offer cost-savings and eco benefits, to reducing the use of plastics in the business, working with logistics firms who are doing more for the environment or taking part in carbon offsetting projects. And in doing so, companies can reap many rewards, including the following benefits to workplace culture and other areas of the business.
Improve communication between staff
The first benefit of a sustainability policy is that it gets all staff working towards a united purpose, which can encourage discussion, collaboration and enhance communication within different teams. The long-term impact of this is that it can help to strengthen workplace relationships and engagement across the business.
One strategy that some businesses have gone with for getting staff involved in sustainability is creating ‘green teams’ which act as a platform for employees to bring up issues around how they work or the business as a whole operates, and suggest sustainable solutions. It’s a method that works for any industry and it gets people from all employment backgrounds working together to find innovative ways for your company to do better. But, it also provides a very clear outlet for everyone to express their concerns and present solutions, helping one another to think of ways around problems which can benefit other areas of your business too.
Position your business as forward-thinking
Businesses are now judged and ranked by their sustainability targets, not just by customers but also by potential candidates who may be looking for an employer in the industry. Making the effort to improve your sustainability credentials and do more for the environment can significantly improve your brand and reputation, something that, in turn, can help you build your customer base and enhance customer loyalty.
Sustainability is an issue that an increasing number of customers consider when making purchasing decisions, and a business with a policy in place instantly stands out as a company that cares. When a customer can see that a business aligns with their values, it encourages them to choose that business over a competitor.
Attract talent and investors
As we’ve discussed, sustainability is an important issue for customers, but it also really matters to your business and potential investors. When it comes to attracting top talent and further investments, having a sustainability policy in place that showcases how your business is making strides in environmentally-friendly practises can really help. It will also draw in the right kind of people to your business.
Many investors now place sustainability at the core of their investment strategies, and that means greater opportunities for businesses who have a sustainability policy in place and a roadmap to eco-friendlier operations. Research has also shown that 53% of the UK’s workforce agrees that sustainability is a key factor when choosing a company to work for. So, when fostering a workplace culture that attracts positive attention from candidates and investors, sustainability should feature.
Make financial gains for your business
One of the benefits of switching to sustainable practises in the workplace is that it can offer significant savings on your utilities and business expenses. From saving money via renewable energy, using tech to streamline the business and reduce wastage and ditching single-use items in place of reusables, it’s a benefit that even large-scale businesses have adopted.
This means that your company has more money to put towards other areas of the business, such as staff training and progression, expanding to bigger premises or upgrading equipment and software to help you grow your business. All businesses are constantly seeking ways to save money, while also creating company cultures that encourage employee retention and staff happiness. A sustainability policy can actually help with both.
Align personal and corporate values
Both employees and employers tend to use a rational cost:benefit calculation to determine how to act in the workplace, which is to say they consider what’s in it for them. But when a business is dominated by maximising profits, this calculation can lead employees to behave in ways that don’t align with how they’d behave in their personal lives, just to please their superiors.
A benefit of a workplace sustainability policy is that it gives staff the chance to align their personal and corporate values, and that can help staff to voice their values comfortably and feel confident raising questions. Employees increasingly want to feel as though their career has purpose and value, and being able to work towards wider goals such as sustainability can help businesses deliver this.
Define a broader business purpose
Central to a successful workplace culture is a central goal or purpose, and that’s something that a sustainability policy can provide. People can feel conflict in their work duties if they don’t have any concept of what they’re working towards in the longer-term. And, it makes sense that when we know what we’re working for, we can feel more connected to our roles and our position in a company.
For example, Unilever, defines its purpose as ‘making sustainable living commonplace’. To put this into practice, they created a blueprint for the company’s growth, such as helping over one billion people improve their health and wellbeing, and reducing the company’s environmental impact by half. These goals were clear, concise and undoubtedly made it much easier for Unilever’s staff to know what they were working towards.
Companies should always strive to have long-term purpose built into their business strategy, but it also pays to communicate those goals and aspirations to staff so it creates meaning to the work everyone is doing. Without it, businesses could be at risk of their employees leaving to find a purposeful job elsewhere.
Where to start
Sustainability policies help companies foster a stronger, more effective workplace culture, but they also help with the adherence to environmental legislation, creating less waste and using less energy, and creating a better reputation with eco-conscious customers and stakeholders in the business. But, where do you start in creating the policy itself?
Consider the following questions before you begin:
- Which areas of your business produce the most waste or have the biggest environmental impact? How do you plan to prevent or reduce this?
- Are you familiar with the relevant green legislation? How will your company ensure compliance?
- How will you maintain and improve on your sustainability performance?
- What communication methods will you use to manage the policy and encourage staff to cooperate?
Understand your vision and what the purpose of the policy is. It’s all very well to say your business is sustainable but what is the broader goal? What do you hope to achieve with these efforts; who are you trying to help with your sustainability policy?
Knowing your ‘why’ will make it easier to determine the steps you need to take to reach those goals. Being environmentally aware and also familiar with the systems and processes within your business can help significantly with answering these questions. In turn, it will enable you to identify the areas of your business where you can actively improve.
But you should also include your staff in these discussions. There may be processes you’re unfamiliar with or ideas you haven’t considered that could make a big difference to your overall carbon footprint.
Employees who are involved in idea generation and decision-making are also going to be more engaged when it comes to actually putting those ideas into action. This may involve training or certifications for certain staff members who can then act as leaders within your ‘green teams’ and guide the company towards more sustainable practises.
From cost-cutting and brand reputation to attracting top talent and encouraging communication and collaboration within teams, implementing a sustainability policy can do wonders for a business’ workplace culture and overall growth.
Company culture is so important for engaging staff and building a business, both in terms of recognition and profitability, and sustainability can assist companies with this, while also helping to reduce carbon emissions for a healthier planet.
About the Author
Dakota Murphey is a freelance author who specialises in: Digital Trends in Business, Marketing, PR, Branding, Cybersecurity, Entrepreneurial Skills and Company Growth.