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Put people at the centre of your sustainability strategy

Put people at the centre of your sustainability strategy

A sustainability strategy should cover, as standard, issues relevant to human resources and also engage the workforce. However, a really good strategy has built into its framework a way of unleashing the potential of the very people who are delivering the commitments.

‘Motivated’, ‘excited’, ‘happy’. What do you think of when you read those words? Weekends with family, taking part in your favourite sport, or a reason to save for holidays? At what point does ‘work’ pop into your head? Probably very far down the list, if at all. And if so, you are not alone in this.

The UK has a big problem with people being motivated and engaged at work; employee engagement is predicted as being the key problem for 2018[i]. This is something to worry about for many reasons:

  • Engagement is a critical part of productivity – something that Britain lags in; an engaged and motivated employee can be up to 22% more productive[ii].
  • Talent retention is a known outcome of engagement; engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave your company, which translates to higher profits and lower turnover costs.
  • Innovation and R&D relies on people being motivated and engaged; customer service, sales and other customer facing roles are usually where dis-engaged employees poll as most prevalent[iii],

This critical business problem has a complex relationship with sustainability.

  • Positively, engagement and motivation (as Dan Pink’s research tells us) is created by building purpose, autonomy, and mastery and a good sustainability strategy can developed these. That is, if the strategy is developed and rolled out properly (to find out how, contact us). Thus, sustainability can be a huge enabler for engaging and motivating the workforce.
  • However, for a sustainability strategy to succeed, you need employees to be motivated to take on and embed responsibilities and new behaviours. They need to be engaged to sustainability. But if they are not motivated to the business, they won’t be motivated to the sustainability strategy. Given that 51% of employees[iv] are considering leaving their job, if you are managing sustainability, how much of your time will be spent finding, replacing, re-engaging, and skilling up new people to embrace certain sustainability roles when the dis-engaged employees have left?

More and more over the last few years HR and sustainability teams are starting to work together, recognising how they can enable each other’s agendas. A standard sustainability strategy may have a strand of work called ‘Our People’, or ‘Workforce’, in which may sit Diversity, Health & Wellbeing, Talent Development and Human Rights - all worthy activities that contribute to making the business a nice place to work. But we are moving to recognising how much more integral ‘people’ are to the broader sustainability strategy; unlocking talent and discovering relationships – and the innovation, productivity and performance that can be created from that. It is not a bespoke set of activities – it is a mindset and approach that when done right enables product responsibility to be inherently thought through, process and production to be improved through human innovation, and environmental impact to be managed with responsibility by your employees.

So, when you are developing your strategy, consider what the foundations are – what and who underpins the successful delivery and roll-out of your strategy. How reliant are you on employees embracing and owning sustainability-driven actions, and how much can you contribute to the critical C-suite agenda of motivation and productivity of the workforce?

To learn more about how to build or refresh a sustainability strategy that untaps the potential of People and contributes to organisational commercial drivers, download our brochure or get in touch.


[i] Cascade 2017: 2018 HR Landscape: What’s In Store?

[ii] www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/britains-productivity-problem-tips-boost-employee-engagement/109756

[iii] https://www.siagroup.com/price-ignoring-employee-engagement/

[iv] 2016: Office vibe. State of employee engagement.