Companies of all sizes and across all industries are incorporating sustainability into their company culture. This trend is representative of the wider evolution of consumer values with respect to sustainability. Today, more than ever before, buyers are concerned with how the companies they support are treating the environment.
As consumer habits change, companies are adopting more sustainable practices as business models and looking for ways to reduce waste and reduce energy use. However, it is vital that companies incorporate these values into their culture as well. Real change comes from within. Sustainability should be key to your company culture because your employees reflect your true values and are integral to the success of your green initiatives.
1. Be Collaborative
Integrating sustainability values into your company culture should be a collaborative process. Culture is all about relationships, and this is especially true when it comes to sustainability. Environmental sustainability is about improving the relationship between human beings and the earth. It is about preserving resources, protecting human health and safeguarding the environment for future generations. Involving employees and coworkers in the process of incorporating sustainability makes everyone feel responsible for the projects you choose to invest in.
For example, if you decide to ditch the single-cup Keurig machine in the breakroom to reduce plastic waste, you want to work with your employees on a sustainable alternative they can get behind. Otherwise, they will be unlikely to have positive associations with the change.
2. Think Holistically
Sustainability is applicable in a variety of platforms, and there is no one right way to incorporate sustainable values into your company culture. Approaching sustainability initiatives holistically allows you to tweak your goals so they match what works best for your company.
For example, your company culture may be team-driven, focusing on competition and community to bring about effective change. These are values that hold true when it comes to eco-friendly practices as well. By treating sustainability as an extension of your core values, you can more easily integrate initiatives that align with your mission as a company.
3. Adopt an Ever-Changing Mindset
The best definition of environmental sustainability is meeting present demand while preserving resources for future generations. However, there are many ways to define sustainability in action, as environmental initiatives are constantly changing. When you integrate sustainability into your company culture, you make a promise to your employees and consumers that you are always learning and always transforming.
There is no one right way to operate a more sustainable business. Building a culture of sustainability internally is all about constantly learning and analyzing the best ways to live in a more eco-conscious way. This means nothing is set in stone and your company is always open to new solutions. Company culture should never feel stagnant, and adopting sustainability demonstrates a commitment to always being open to change.
4. Be Intentive (yes, it’s word)
Sometimes it can feel like the values you state in your company culture are hard to grasp. For example, you may value camaraderie and good humor, but there is little evidence of this in daily coworker interactions. Incorporating sustainability into your company values forces you to be intentive. Culture is intangible — it can be hard to define what sets your company apart. But when it comes to eco-conscious behavior, every action is intentive.
If sustainability is at the heart of your company culture, it impacts every aspect of your decision-making. From using recycled paper to rewarding employees who bike to work, these initiatives must be intentive. Your sustainability goals should be tangible and your employees should see the company’s values in action. If you make sustainability a core value, it may make it easier to define other values more clearly.
5. Encourage Team Bonding
Sustainability thrives on collaboration. While a team-focused mentality is often a core company value, true success requires building a relationship that is sealed with a definitive bond. When adding sustainability to your company values, you recognize the essential bond between human beings and the environment. You proactively take responsibility for the impact and take actionable steps to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
Incorporating these values into your company culture helps employees recognize the same commitment to their work and team. Encouraging a real bond within your company makes for a stronger, more motivated team. Additionally, including training in your company’s budget for all employees that places a focus on environmental sustainability can both help employees bond with each other and build a company focused on its environmental footprint.
The Business of Going Green
Companies all around the world are adopting sustainability as one of their core values. However, most of the messaging around sustainability is reserved for consumers, with employees left feeling confused about what the company’s goals really are.
Incorporating eco-friendly initiatives internally is vital to your company culture. Not only does it reinforce your marketing message, but it also transforms how you define your core values. Sustainability requires a collaborative, holistic approach to problems, and the solutions are ever-changing. The same is true of any business.
By making sustainability a defining feature of your company culture, you signal to your employees that you care more about team-bonding, intentive performance and collaboration than just meeting a certain quota. Incorporating sustainability into your culture creates an environment of collaboration that puts your eco goals into action.
Emily Folk is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work.