Sustainability for many organisations has long been a fringe activity.
Buying recycling bins. Offering volunteering days. Banning plastic water bottles. Running community events.
But it tends to be ad hoc. Unquantified. A side hustle to the day job. And the responsibility of one person (if you’re lucky).
This could all change. The noise is rising: Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough, even the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, have weighed into the debate; and of course, there’s no forgetting Extinction Rebellion.
We have the impending COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which could be a landmark event.
And we’ve seen charities and organisations having to turn away sponsorship, from the likes of BP and others, because their supporters were against it.
We know that sustainability is more important than ever to the population. In the UK general election, for example, the environment was identified as the second most important issue (after Brexit) for 18-24 year-olds.
So what does this mean for organisations and their people?
First up, one for the be a counters: Sustainability can deliver higher revenues.
A report by the Centre for Sustainability and Excellence found that 73% of the companies they analysed (50 companies with the highest ESG ratings) recorded higher revenues (2017 v 2016)—indicating a “strong correlation between financial performance and sustainability performance.”
So Sustainability needs to be built into the DNA and purpose of the organisation. This is not to say that everything you are doing has some intrinsic value to society and the common good; but at the very least, you are not making things worse, and the majority of your actions are bringing greater benefits to society and the environment.
Too often, organisations ringfence Sustainability as something extracurricular.
In truth, the greatest value you can bring to society is through your services – whether as a bank, a retailer, a pharma, a manufacturer, or even a consultant!
Start with your services. Quantify your value to society through the work you do.
Then look at your operations (including your people) and your supply chain.
This way, you start to build a picture for your own people (and future hires) about the value you bring to society through the work you do, the people who work for you, the buildings you use, and the suppliers who work with you.
This is a much more powerful, emotive and symbolic narrative – one which transcends a few good deeds.
It makes people proud of who they work for.
Here’s a video we produced for SGS, and how they calculate their value to society.
Suddenly we see an organisation going from focusing on Sustainability to leading the conversation.
We’ve supported their journey with video, web tools, storytelling programme and more.