Implementing Sustainability within the Workplace

You may have been tasked with implementing sustainability in your workplace, but what steps do you take and how do you demonstrate the value of the ideas that you have.

 

There is still room for improvement when considering senior buy-in with Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS).  In some of the offices I have worked in, it sometimes seems as though CRS is paid lip service but realistically for many people in the workplace, it is not an important factor in their everyday work lives.  So how can you go about making changes in your office and secure commitment from your colleagues?

Even if your employer expects that you take responsibility for sustainability in your role, I can almost guarantee that there will be pushback from the team/ office/ stakeholders.  And depending on the time you have available, and the seniority of the role you hold, you will have varying levels of influence and availability of tools to help you.

Below, I have written a basic 5 step guide for those of you who are new to CRS, outlining key areas to consider when aiming to effectively implement CRS in the workplace.  I’ll give advice based on my own experiences which will help you perceive where the challenges may be, and how to go about tackling those challenges.

 

1.Research CRS issues appropriate to your industry & specifically, your organisation.

The discipline of CRS is huge, and there are usually issues at many different levels within any one business.  CRS will permeate in every area of the business, from the management of the supply chain, to the satisfaction of the employees and customers.  Firstly, you will need to research CRS issues appropriate to your industry and specifically, your organisation.  What are your competitors and customers saying about Sustainability?  Is there any industry standard and/or legislation relative to your industry?  Is there a Policy in place outlining your CRS commitments?  What are the CRS issues in the geographical areas where you operate?  In answering these types of questions, you will be able to determine what can be reasonably expected from your organisation.  By understanding what is expected, in contrast to the current practice in your organisation, you will be able to form a picture of any gap which exists between the two states.

 

2.Understand the culture of your workplace.

Once you have identified the relative issue(s) which you have chosen to address, it is time to understand the culture of your workplace, and work out which behaviours(or lack of behaviours) are contributing factors.  This does not have to be an exhaustive task; it can simply be things you notice or observe occasionally e.g; paper not being recycled, or computers and lights left on overnight.  Changing behaviour at an organisation is a mammoth task, which requires an abundance of resources, research and responsibility.  It may not be feasible to expect this type of change to happen overnight, especially if you are the only one with the vision!  It would be unrealistic, for example, to expect your organisation to immediately only use renewable energy to meet its demands, in order to cut its environmental impact.  Instead, all you are trying to do at this stage is understand how the organisational culture relates to the identified issue(s).

 

3.Use Metrics to Inform a Story.

Show in simple terms the relationships you have identified.  Form a narrative, by initially monitoring and measuring all relative metrics.  Use the data gathered to inform the relationship between the metrics you have identified.

See an example of how you can use metrics to inform a story, below.

“When x occurs, then y & z increase.  When y & z increase, this threatens a & b.”

Where,

x = computers being left on overnight

y = carbon footprint

z = operational expenses

a = legal compliance

b = profits

Here, by demonstrating this relationship, I am able to show that by controlling the behaviour of leaving computers on overnight, it can reduce the threats of non-compliance and loss of profits.  When something like this is supported by primary data as well, it forms a compelling story.

 

4.Present an argument about how your idea impacts the Triple Bottom Line.

Having MEANINGFUL buy in from senior staff will require clear and concise communication.  If you want your CEO to be behind your suggestions, you need to convince her/him, in no uncertain terms that the benefits of your program outweigh the costs and the risks.  CRS is about streamlining business to make it more efficient and this is done best if you can present an argument about how your idea impacts the Triple Bottom Line.  Your argument needs to show importance, necessity and benefit.  If you can successfully communicate your research into the CRS issues appropriate to your industry, and your research into the current performance of your organisation, you should be able to convince your senior colleagues of the value of your suggestions.

 

5.Reinforce the Importance of CRS within the Organisation.

When you have the green light to implement your CRS program, the first thing to organise is the infrastructure behind it.  If you have a recycling program, then ensure the facilities will be available from day one.  Similarly, if you have an energy saving scheme, then all arrangements such as technology and agreements, should be finalised before it is announced to the rest of the workforce.

Next, make sure that you have an implementation date, and communicate it with all those necessary across the workforce, prior to launching.  This will ensure that those with any questions have enough time to approach you for more information.  This will give you the opportunity to tie up any loose ends and create buy-in from colleagues, before the programme starts.  Let people know exactly what will be required of them, and inform them of what the organisational objectives are.  It may also be helpful if you can arrange for a senior colleague to send a small email or memo around the organisation a couple of days before the launch of the programme.  This will reinforce the importance of CRS within the organisation and create a greater incentive for the workforce to pull together and contribute.

Continue to measure the metrics you identified at Step 3, and report on these metrics regularly to your colleagues.  This is very important because it will show whether or not the intervention you have implemented has any effect on the efficiency of the business.  Remember also, that when an employee sees the benefit of their work, it is likely that the behaviour is reinforced and will continue to be performed, due to higher levels of motivation.

It is vital to present the progress towards reduced cost and/ or risk to your upstream as well.  Ultimately, this is how you show the value of the program and secure the commitment from senior colleagues.

 

I hope these steps are of value to you in some capacity.  This is not exhaustive, but it is intended to help you consider some of the preparations you will have to make and skills you may need to utilise and develop when implementing a CRS program within the workplace.

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