Sustainability efforts and environmental awareness are everybody’s responsibility
In today’s shifting climate, each of us can commit to making a difference for the well-being of the environment and people. Sustainability is no longer a strange concept. However, the process required for achieving it can be confusing and strenuous. As environmental challenges become more urgent with each passing day, working our sustainable decision-making ‘muscles’ became part of everybody’s responsibility. It is a skill that can change people’s everyday lives, as well as their approach to making choices at work.
“Overall, the world should be using more energy, not less—as long as it is clean.” – Bill Gates
Are people up to the challenge?
In a 2017 study by the European Commission looking into the environmental awareness of citizens in the 28 EU member states (pre-Brexit), 56% of respondents claimed that protecting the environment is very important to them personally. The same study found that more than half of respondents used television as their leading source of environmental information.
However, environmental science is a complex matter. Thus, trying to stay on top of it can feel like a daunting loop of choices. Pair this with the difficulty in visualising how our choices impact the environment, and you have the perfect recipe for overlooking sustainable decision-making in everyday lives.
“There are many reasons why politicians and the public have difficulty engaging with climate change. For example, climate change can feel distant, and there is often little immediate gratification for dealing with it.” – Kamyar Razavi, 2019, ‘The counter-intuitive solution to getting people to care about climate change’, The Conversation
Is sustainable decision-making easier for companies?
If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the abundance of choices when it comes to sustainability in day-to-day choices, just think (or remember) how hard that is at a company level. As we previously established, sustainable strategies can help companies grow, but this is nowhere close to an easy task. For this, companies face the challenge of dissecting every decision from multiple points of view – environmental, social, economic. Some of the biggest challenges that companies face when it comes to sustainable decision-making are engaging employees from different departments to work together efficiently and supporting them to overcome their biases in the process.
Companies that do not make sustainable decision-making part of their strategy risk losing the trust of their stakeholders. Moreover, conscious consumerism becomes more influential in people’s day-to-day choices. This being said, most consumers are willing to support sustainability-driven companies and avoid the ones that are not keeping the pace. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that 85% of surveyed European retailers report increased sales of sustainable products over the past five years, and 92% expect this trend to increase in the next five years.
Hence, there are multiple factors that motivate companies to undertake sustainable decision-making. As a result, 86% of the companies in the S&P 500 Index published sustainability or corporate responsibility reports in 2018.
Trade-offs of corporate sustainable decision-making cannot be overlooked
Given the intimate link between the three previously-mentioned sustainability pillars, oftentimes sustainable development inevitably encompasses imbalances. Hahn et al. (2010) argue that a ‘win-win’ paradigm tends to govern corporate sustainability choices. This means striving to reach positive economic, environmental, and social outcomes at the organisational level. However, this way of looking at the issue can lead to many biases.
The win-win model can lure decision-makers to look for conﬂict-free solutions, thus leading to a limited drive to radically change core business practices for the sake of sustainable development. This paradigm restricts the possible paths towards sustainable development. Alongside this, it risks narrowing the corporate sustainability actions and approaches by focusing first of all on boosting profits.
However, the aforementioned authors argue that trade-offs of sustainable decision-making, especially when looking at the financial aspects, do not automatically lead to lesser corporate contributions to sustainable development in comparison with win-win situations. This can sometimes feel counterintuitive. That is why having an impartial outside voice can make a major difference in the company’s efforts for sustainable decision-making.
“Accepting a relatively small loss in corporate economic performance to generate a substantial social or environmental benefit might well result in a greater positive corporate contribution to sustainable development compared with a situation of minor gains in economic performance alongside modest improvements in environmental or social performance.” – Hahn et al., 2010, ‘Trade-Offs in Corporate Sustainability: You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It’, p. 220
Working towards sustainability brings employees together
Sustainable decision-making involves plenty of complex choices. For this, employees need to come together, go through ideation processes, and support each other in overcoming their biases.
However, sometimes this is easier said than done. Even teams with vast experience of working together can reach difficulties in moving forward. Furthermore, since sustainable decision-making involves people from various departments and teams, the task of generating valuable results can prove more challenging than it should, if not impossible, without proper guidance.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
How to simplify this complex issue
Involving sustainability in everyday decision-making can change more than the way people conduct their lives. It can also change the manner they envision their work and purpose. At 2030 Builders, we are aware of the fact that sustainable decision-making can be a complicated deal. But we also genuinely believe it will help shape the future in a way that people and companies will stand by their values more and truly commit to making a difference.
For this, our Sustainable Decision-Making module supports employees in learning how to engage in more sustainable personal and professional behaviours. More importantly, our module builds on this knowledge in order to incentivise collaboration between teams and departments that work towards the same goal – making sustainability the core of decision-making.
We are certain that with the proper guidance and tools, the quest for sustainability can even be an enjoyable one. That is why we built our modules to bring the best out of collaboration, by working with technology, gamification, and digitalization.
A look into the future
The best way of changing the status quo is by asking questions, collaborating, and building towards a brighter future. For this, each and every one of us can continue making bold changes, both in our personal lives and in the companies we dedicate our time and energy to.