Sustainability should be handled just as you handle other operations of your business
They say to maintain something is more difficult than starting up, be it business, an image, a standard or an organization. The same theory applies when you’ve turned your business environment-friendly. Sustainability has to be part of the central focus and operations of the organization. A sustainable approach means ‘this is how we do things here’ – it should be handled just as you handle other operations of your business.
This means it might be necessary to have a short-term professionals specializing in making the change happen. But make sure you don’t turn it into a separate ‘sustainability branch’ of the organization. This would make an impression on your employees that sustainability is not a part of your day-to-day business. Following are a few areas where you would need to work on to integrate sustainability into the basics of the business.
Change in Beliefs
This is perhaps the most important and initial shift in your drive towards sustainability, which is neither a cheap nor a quick exercise. You certainly need to change the culture of your company to be able to survive and grow.
You might be required to make a shift in your attitude towards your customers. Concentrate on these three factors to bring about the culture change. Arrange for every employee to attend a short course on sustainability and how it will be a regular aspect of your business. Directors should be willing to attend this training course as well and be willing to answer any queries, emphasizing just how important the change is to the company. All managers should also be given similar training, again emphasizing the importance of the change.
It is imperative to understand that any change starts from top down. If your company policy announces to the staff that ‘sustainability is important to us’, but your managers ignore this, it is the manager’s view that will be taken into account. Hence, it is essential that the managers understand the need for culture change so that it can work its way through the organization.
Another way to ensure that sustainability is taken seriously by the organization is through rewards and recognitions. Make creativity ‘a part of the job for staff, and not a secondary interest’. Their ideas on sustainability should be assessed in the annual review process and directly reflected in the standard reward scheme. It is essential that employees feel that it is safe to give feedback. Encourage them to offer positive suggestions to make it work better. Whether it’s annual appraisals, promotion or some form of company recognition, there should be an opportunity to recognize any action that has furthered the cause of sustainability. Don’t just reward your staff purely based on financial or operational targets, thereby sidelining sustainability.
If your workforce understands and accepts that the senior management is really passionate for this change, they will cooperate equally. If they see that you are bringing in a more sustainable approach to the business both for financial benefit and out of a genuine concern for the environment and society, the staff will more likely assist in the initiative.
It is but inevitable that you will meet obstacles while you are trying to bring about a change in the belief system of your organization. No matter how hard you try, there will be a few members of staff, or even managers, who simply don’t get the new culture or can’t adapt to it. It becomes necessary to accept that if you want the culture change to take place, you will have to find an alternative to them.
Getting the right managers
It is important that the senior management, including chief executives, drive the sustainability campaign. They should be seeing environmental, social and community concerns as part of day-to-day management responsibility. However, a large organization will initially need a good manager to ensure that proper culture change occurs.
It might be a good idea to appoint someone who has a strong background in environmental or campaigning plans. It would be even more effective if someone with an experience of operations of the kind your company is involved in is put in place. So when there is resistance from the line management, the sustainability manager is in a good position to head them off with his or her experience.
However, a manager responsible for driving the changes to embrace sustainability will need to be enthusiastic, flexible and creative. He has to be talented and know how to deal with people and organizational challenges.
When it comes to sustainability, there will be a need for more transparency in the internal communications of an organization. Communication is also a two-way process. Make use of multiple media and routes to communicate with your staff, like staff magazines and newspapers, intranet, management briefings, emails or leisure clubs. See where you can find an opportunity for getting the sustainability message across.
This means more explaining as to why you are taking a more sustainable approach to your business. Assure the staff that their doubts and questions are valid and that there is a logical clarification for that. You will definitely need to explain your staff as to why this is good for the company and their jobs, why and how it benefits the environment, the local and the wider community. This may sound a little laborious, but has big benefits.