In today's age, sustainability is a huge issue concerning everyone. Looking at it from my perspective - as a part of Gen Z - the problem becomes heavier as the aftermath of today's culture and lifestyle will directly affect the future of my generation, and the ones to come.
The demand for change has become increasingly noticeable – finally also in the business world - and big steps toward sustainability have already been made in work culture. But there's still an enormous gap between where we're at and where we want to be as a society.
How can it be done?
Each company is unique so there is no one size fits all approach towards sustainability and what works for one company might be the most counterproductive idea for another. There are a series of steps that can be taken to define and deploy the sustainability goals of an enterprise, this method might even lead to a paradigm shift and ideally works as a long-term solution.
Setting universal priorities and values
This works similar to writing a mission statement. The idea of this step is to align the distinct core values of every employee and to make clear what the company stands for and how to achieve it. The values have to make sense for everyone in every position. This step is not supposed to include sustainability yet - except of course if it is one of your company’s key values. It is important to include all employees in the brainstorming process. For small businesses, it is easier to do that than for big firms, as they can schedule one meeting for everyone to participate and discuss the topic together. One possible way for bigger companies to include everybody could be to create an email address that is used only for people to send in their ideas and participate or to use collaborative tools such as slack or similar to get together globally with idea creation.
Defining goals regarding sustainability
Now is the time to add the topic of sustainability by identifying goals that go hand in hand with the values defined in the previous step. As an example, for a company that values speed and productivity, it would be counterintuitive to compromise those values by changing to a greener, but slower web hosting service. One possible way to align those values with sustainability might be to offer the employees healthier and more sustainable food options for lunch, which provides them with more energy for work and at the same time reduces the Co2 footprint.
To define those goals a company can analyze their spendings, their employee's work routines, their work environment, etc.
In the process of choosing one or more goals, the company should always beware to not compromise its values but base sustainable behavior on them.
Creating a system
As soon as the goals and values are aligned, it's time to further develop them, by building a system or a plan to put them into practice. The system should be kept as simple as possible to smoothen the transition and make it stick long-term. Additionally, the system should include Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) to be able to measure its success.
Making it a habit
Putting a system into practice might just be the most arduous step of all. It's where most people fail. Why is that?
Well, it is the same reason why most New Years' resolutions end up being unsuccessful. People naturally love comfort, and establishing new habits takes up a lot of energy. It is therefore vital to simplify the habit as much as possible - especially if it is a new daily routine regarding all employees - and to foresee that there will be resistance in the beginning and that at least one month for getting used to those habits should be calculated.
Analyzing & improving
At this point, the company should have implemented sustainable choices and practices, and it is time to rewind and adjust them.
This can be done by analyzing the KPI's and asking questions, like:
What's going well?
Where is improvement needed?
How was the reaction?
That way the company can make sure always to be up-to-date.
Keep in mind
This methodology can at the best bring a paradigm shift in the culture of the company. Therefore, it is important to engage everyone, which will also increase the potential to succeed in creating a more sustainable company whilst improving communication and trust inside the firm at the same time - win-win for everyone.
Sustainability should be a topic concerning all workers. That is why it is key to impact and involve all people, everyone should feel encouraged to speak up openly and ultimately work towards the same goal. Working on such a project strengthens teamwork and can take away some of the hierarchical pressure that is represented in the culture of many workplaces.
In conclusion, the best way to create a more sustainable company is to make sustainability a long-term part of everyday work life, build goals and especially daily routines and habits according to the company value, and make the company a place of open-mindedness, trust, and inclusion.