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at all levels
We see the same trends among employees as we see among consumers – namely, increasing demand for sustainable products and processes. People want to work for companies that align with their values and give them a sense of pride. Ensuring employee satisfaction is paramount, as a strong and productive team is one that is happy and motivated in what they do.
A successful transformation will be one that reaps the business benefits of sustainability, including attracting and retaining top talent with green credentials. The entire company culture must be geared toward sustainability and, to make this happen, an organization’s leaders must develop and share a sustainable mindset.
“Millennials and Gen Z employees prioritize employers that focus on sustainability. Companies that embed environmental concerns into their business models will reap the rewards in the form of a more engaged workforce.”
Marie-Neige Couriaut, Capgemini Deputy Head of Sustainability Accelerator
Executives’ reasons for attending to environmental concerns are often outward oriented and concerned with the future. For instance, the most common motivating factor for adopting eco-initiatives is “sustaining the planet for future generations,” identified by 63% of executives. The second most common motivating factor is “to align with the demands of employees and potential employees.”
This speaks to another key aspect of the sustainability transformation: the inclusion of employees at every step of the process. This makes sense; the people who make a company also make its culture, and therefore an eco-friendly culture requires eco-friendly employees. Only when workers are completely invested and empowered to contribute will their companies reap the rewards of their contributions. Therefore, leaders must ensure there is an enterprise-wide understanding of environmental objectives and coordination of sustainability initiatives.
This is relevant at all levels, including top C-suite executives. It can be done by defining the skill-sets needed to accomplish a complete overhaul and then upskilling your workforce to match. In order to make the cultural shift stick, human resources should also be directed to look for and emphasize sustainability skills when hiring. Strong, sustainability-oriented governance will be of the utmost importance to making this happen well and quickly.
of employers use digital tools like AR/VR or collaboration tools to reduce employees’ travel needs
Trend watch 2023
Putting our heads together
Currently, only 36% of sustainability beginners, or companies that are at the very start of their sustainability transformation, agree that their employees engage in behaviors to support the company’s sustainability goals. Compare this to the 78% of sustainability frontrunners who do see their employees taking an active part in their company’s sustainability journey, and we already see the trend toward putting the focus on people. Not only are environmental leaders looking to recruit employees with backgrounds in green operations, but they are also working to upskill their existing employees.
Companies seeking to catch up can consider running workshops or providing information about hard sustainability skills like carbon accounting or environmental engineering. Every new method taught will help employees shift their roles to be more closely concerned with sustainability, while providing added value for the company.
The focus on people can also be as simple as encouraging everyone to adopt more eco-friendly habits at the office. Poster campaigns, recycling drives, or just encouraging people to turn the lights out when they leave, are all simple and impactful ways to reduce energy usage and the associated costs.
It is also key that employees be given the autonomy to think and propose sustainable solutions themselves. The culture required for a greener future is one that listens to and encourages a wide array of opinions and viewpoints. Enabling R&D personnel to put their skills toward sustainable solutions will be especially vital to creating new and innovative eco-friendly solutions.
Tech for the planet
Tools to empower employees
Improving culture and governance is not something that can be done entirely by leaders or by employees alone. It will also require new tools that enable new ways of working. Embracing green cloud solutions will be vital for companies seeking ways to reduce their emissions footprints. Such eco-friendly architectures will introduce more efficiencies and improve processes.
Businesses also need to look further at ways to offer alternative services and platforms to enable sustainable practices that are truly useful for employees. This could include providing platforms to organize carsharing, or using Artificial Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) to make remote training sessions more engaging.
Green IT is compatible with the shift we have observed toward more remote or hybrid working in recent years. Moving away from paper and storing data remotely also make it more easily accessible by employees all over the world. So, not only do these solutions make employees happier with their environmental impact, but they also offer them more freedom to work wherever and however they want.
A culture shift may seem hard to achieve, especially for large companies. And while all leaders should drive this shift, a few key roles stand out.
If you're the CEO
As the Chief Executive Officer, you have to take the lead in creating change. Leading intentionally and by example will help employees feel connected to a collective effort.
Begin overhauling the culture by creating a sustainability taskforce that can leverage data to help guide and implement your plans.
Then, consider delegating responsibility for environmental risk either to an existing or a newly created C-suite role, such as a Chief Sustainability Officer.
It is important that you bring the entire organization together, removing silos and encouraging collaboration toward the company’s sustainability goals.
If you're the CHRO
As the Chief Human Resources Officer, this is your area to shine in.
You must staff for sustainability by recruiting and upskilling employees to have requisite eco-skills.
At every level of the organization, from fellow executives to managers to team members, educate people about how to make environmentally informed decisions. To make a true culture shift, every single part of the company must be committed. Therefore, you must foster a culture that celebrates and promotes environmentalism, while trusting and empowering your people to contribute their own ideas.
And finally, you can leverage your sustainable culture by partnering with the Chief Marketing Officer on an external recruitment campaign.
If you're the CDO
The Chief Design/Product Officer should move toward a circular design approach.
Upskilling designers in circular design will help product and design teams lessen their waste and thus their environmental footprints. Start empowering employees today by introducing tools for LCA.
You should also establish guidelines and provide tools to help product-design teams evaluate trade-offs across parameters such as sustainability, cost and performance, and to navigate decisions.