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Sustainability In Depth

The first of our quarterly thought pieces from our sustainability partners, Bioregional, this time on why sustainability has become increasingly important for organisations as a means of attracting talent and engaging with employees, with examples of some success stories from the corporate world. 


Why sustainability is key for employee engagement 

In today’s workforce, 84% of employees value working somewhere where work is meaningful. Moreover, over one-third of employees believe an organisation’s purpose is just as important as the salary and benefits package they offer. This highlights the growing importance of purpose-driven employment, where individuals seek organisations that align with their values and contribute to societal well-being. 

Embracing corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives attracts top talent and fosters employee engagement and loyalty. As organisations strive to remain competitive in the talent market, prioritising purpose-driven employment becomes imperative for long-term success. 


The business case for integrating sustainability 

Embedding sustainability into organisational culture is a strategic business decision. Research indicates that companies with strong sustainability practices see a 55% increase in employee morale and a 43% increase in productivity. Integrating sustainability into operations can also lead to significant cost savings through responsible resource consumption, reducing carbon-intensive travel, and investing in renewable energy. 

By prioritising sustainability, businesses can improve their corporate reputation, attract top talent, mitigate risks, and seize new opportunities in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 


Examples of embedding sustainability through employee engagement: 

  1. Long-term Vision: Unilever redefined its purpose to “making sustainable living commonplace,” reflecting its commitment to sustainability and establishing a clear and compelling long-term vision aligned with sustainability goals.
  1. Strong Leadership: Patagonia is an example of strong leadership by championing sustainability efforts, setting clear expectations, and fostering a culture of sustainability from the top down.
  1. Employee Empowerment: Edinburgh Leisure empowered 250 employees through energy efficiency and sustainability training, tasking each site and its employees with carbon-saving goals, allowing them to develop sustainability skills and contribute to decision-making processes.
  1. Feedback Mechanisms: Screwfix embraced a culture of feedback by having direct reports provide feedback to their managers every second week, enhancing employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement
  1. Integration with Well-being Programmes: Southampton University integrated sustainability into its employee wellbeing programme by offering a popular bike loan scheme, promoting holistic support for employees and reinforcing the connection between personal wellbeing and environmental stewardship.
  1. Training: ITV’s Phil Holgate shifted his career trajectory from accounting to becoming ITV’s Global Head of Production Sustainability, attributing his success to carbon literacy training. This example shows how carbon literacy training can increase internal support for sustainability and carbon reduction strategies, as well as encourage personal changes towards a low carbon lifestyle.


Considerations and Challenges 

Organisations embedding sustainability through employee engagement may face challenges, such as managing eco-anxiety, avoiding alienation, and addressing employee activism. To manage eco-anxiety, it is important to maintain optimism while sharing positive climate stories. Avoiding alienation requires inclusive initiatives that consider all employees’ needs. Addressing employee activism involves engaging with employees’ sustainability aspirations and fostering diverse leadership. 

By recognising these challenges and implementing thoughtful strategies, organisations can successfully integrate sustainability into their culture, driving both business success and societal well-being. 

We will be featuring more thought pieces from Bioregional in future – if you have any sustainability topics or issues that you would like to see covered, please do get in touch with us. And a reminder that our online Sustainability Hub features a wealth of information, legislation, guidance and commitments for you to peruse, broken down by industry sectors.  

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