106 Communications

6th Sense

Sustainability: what does it mean to your people?

November 2017 | CSR, Employee Engagement

Corporate and Social Responsibility first became a thing in the 1960s, and then seemed to take on new importance in the 1990s when it moved from simply being purely an economic and legal responsibility to encompassing greater focus on ethics and philanthropy.

Today, it is an industry itself with distinct strategies, reports, teams, award and indices.  And there is no doubt that done well, CSR can have a positive and significant impact on your organisation.  The Reputation Institute found a strong CSR ranking has huge consumer benefits:

  • 89% would recommend the company to others
  • 91% would say something positive about the company
  • 90% would trust the company to do the right thing
  • 89% would buy the company’s products and/or services

What’s more, we know that people today are more concerned about the behaviour of organisations than ever before.  Just take a look at Sports Direct, and the dip in sales after their poor practices were exposed.  At the other end of the scale, we see the likes of Unilever, which has linked their purpose to an environmental impact – ‘to make sustainable living commonplace.’ 

But what does all of this mean for your people and how can you get them involved?  Let’s take a look…

Purpose – people are attracted to organisations with a clear purpose and jobs with greater meaning.  In fact, a survey by LinkedIn showed that all generations (and Baby Boomers more than anyone else) are looking for purpose and meaning in their work.

Reputation – an organisation with a strong CSR ranking can improve its reputation in the eyes of consumers and colleagues.

Employee Involvement – It is amazing what can be achieved when people are involved.  Take the example of Wal Mart.  One of their initiatives was a Personal Sustainability Plan in which each employee crafted a minimum of one major change they would undertake in order to make their life and work more sustainable—in the end, over 500,000 employees voluntarily participated in CSR initiatives, which also resulted in 35,000 new business solutions that benefitted both the planet and the company.

Stories – The power of stories is more important than facts and stats – and these can be critical in setting the example and driving the right behaviours in your organisation.

Measurement – Always the poor relation of any Sustainability programme, because it has either been hard to measure or not measured at all.  But there are now many indices looking at CSR, from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index to the Global CSR RepTrak® 100 report published by the Reputation Institute.

Sustainability undoubtedly has a power to attract, engage and retain – and even help develop – your people.  And as much as I hate the word ‘authentic’, there’s a direct correlation between authenticity and success.  If people feel that social responsibility and sustainability are part of the culture – and by that, it’s an inclusive culture – then they are much more likely to get involved in sustainability activities.

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