Some business strategists see sustainability as an opportunity for growth, as the potential to maximise profit. They can tap into the SDG’s and play their part in reaching them by 2030 while keeping customer satisfaction high. Such a strategy is largely beneficial, as long as the company fully accepts and incorporates the sustainability strategies, instead of greenwashing for sales profits. Thankfully, what we see is a collective shift in mentality, and many corporations take their sustainability agenda seriously. It is becoming clearer that we all need to act on a sustainability agenda. The next question is how do we do that?
Many companies with a sustainable business strategy understand that their employees need to be engaged, and start posing questions such as the following: How do we get our employees to align with the value in our strategy? How do we get them to understand why we do what we do, and why is the change necessary? And lastly, how can we empower our workforce that is proud to work for us and see the value in a sustainability agenda?
The Impact on Individual Employees
There is room for another mentality shift.
The trouble with empowering employees springs from the fact that companies fail to address the most important questions that their employees often have. These concern how the transition of the company affects the employee’s daily tasks and assignments – what the change in fact means for the individual. Employees are encouraged to consider their own sustainability agenda, to align with the company goals, whilst wondering “Why am I here? What do I need to learn?”
If you are a manager, consider whether the new sustainability agenda will affect your employees KPI’s or performance and what it would mean for your business. You might start by asking yourselves how important sustainability is in your company. What sacrifices are you willing to make to empower your employees to be more sustainable and to align with your sustainability strategy? If it is as much of a priority as you claim with a large restructuring of systems, consider the jobs and functions that will be affected throughout the organisation. Furthermore, allow and encourage your employees to spend time cultivating and adapting to this shift. Even if their performance in other areas will be slightly affected. Such encouragement and trust are needed if we are to rock the sustainability boat forward.
The Actors in Sustainability
The second question to tinker with is how can you make employees act on sustainability? In many scenarios of life, most people know exactly how to act and in which sequence to act. Schank & Abelson (1977) brought forward their theory of Scripts. For instance, we have a quite clear script we follow when we go to the restaurant. First, we enter, get seated, the waiter provides menus, takes our order and delivers our food. We eat, we pay, we exit. We act out this restaurant scene in a certain way based on a well written and commonly known script.
The sustainability play is in the midst of the writing process and we only know the setting: Earth. Sustainability is untread land, unmapped territory across troubled waters. A company’s employees are adventurers lost at sea with individual senses of direction and poor navigation skills. In the larger scheme of things, we are looking for the stories to be told that will aid us in figuring out where to go from here.
To help your employees, company managers should join the treasure hunt, mark the X on the map and let their colleagues search for the holy grail of sustainability, not leave them alone on their voyage. There is not a magic formula for behaviour change, no potion we can brew. Employees are actors in need of a script to read, for parts to play, and they will look for directors to help them reach their potential. We are all here to help to write the scripts for change.
What can you, as an employer with a sustainability strategy, start doing already today? Share your sustainability story with the employees. Be transparent and reveal your process. How did you manage to end up with this sustainability company strategy? What steps and measures did you take? What was the process like? Who participated, what roadblocks did you face, how did you end up at your final destination?
How to Set the Stage
It is not enough anymore to merely be inspired. It is not enough that employees understand you want to act. The employees need to see how you act, they want your script for behaviour change, to learn from your mistakes and success. They want to know what part they play, how they can take the stage and with whom. If you want your employees to act, set the stage, tell the story and help direct the actors.
2030 Builders are here to set the stage with you, to co-create the story with your company, to develop and provide the tools that make the change fun, engaging and impactful. Our sustainability platform is an online tool to empower employees to take action – to train, educate and motivate them and make their sustainability journey fun and engaging.
We are proud and humbled to be working with marvellous companies like KraftHeinz, who dare to pose many of the questions from above, who generally care about sustainability, about meeting the SDG’s and making sure that their employees are motivated and involved. We are a beacon in the storm, and we welcome this trust. However, we are not merely a signal beam, we are here to push companies further. The tools we provide through our platform are not meant as substitutes for actions, they are playful guides for action.
We, at 2030 Builders, are here to co-create the story and act out the journey with you. Book a demo to learn more about how we can co-create and act together. We are all part of the sustainability play.
Written by Rebekka Mikkelsen