Companies Focusing on Employee Engagement to Boost Sustainability

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Many companies find it difficult to operationalize sustainability goals, even when they truly care for the environment and the communities, and are committed to making an impact. One of the reasons is that not enough companies have yet figured out how to link their employees’ values and support for sustainability with the employees’ daily work and the company’s operations.

Companies such as Unilever, IBM, Marks & Spencer, Nestlé and BASF are leading the way by integrating sustainability into every employee’s job and turning a sustainable business model into business as usual. For instance, Unilever’s factory-floor workers at its tea factory in England suggested a reduction in the end seals of a tea bag by 3 mm. Since its implementation in 2015, this suggestion has resulted in savings of 9.3 tons of paper at the factory.

Similarly, in early 2015, at the Unilever factory in Khamgaon, India, six employees approached the factory manager with the idea of starting a beauty and hair care course in their village to help empower local women, while at the same time promoting Unilever’s personal care products. In March 2015, the management launched a training center, and to date, 825 women have been trained, and 610 are working in beauty parlors or have started their own business.

Marks & Spencer has appointed sustainability champions in every one of its 1,380 stores to ensure that each store performs the best it possibly can on all sustainability targets. The financial services firm Old Mutual Group created a training program for its future leaders that includes sustainability as a core component. The presence of such champions goes a long way toward making sustainability relevant and palpable throughout the company.

IBM uses its environmental goal setting process to engage its business units and employees in addressing environmental challenges. Through this process the business units gain an understanding of the environmental drivers and objectives behind each goal as well as the business and societal benefits. IBM has observed that this understanding helps garner and sustain support from business unit leadership and increase employee engagement.

An effective way for an organization to embrace a new set of goals and foster an “I should do it” spirit throughout the company is to create a culture of healthy competition among employees. Connected to Care, an initiative launched by BASF in 2015, is an example of healthy competition. The company provides every employee with an opportunity to join a team, develop a corporate volunteering project in one of the core areas of business. In 2015, more than 500 project ideas were received from about 35,000 employees across all BASF regions worldwide, out of which 150 were selected.

Source: Stanford Social Innovation Review

Image: Flickr via TEDxFulbright