The business climate has generated many shared concerns among CEOs and other board managers on issues of manpower and budget, regardless of the industry or type of business they operate. One of the greatest hurdles for CEOs is trying to balance creating an exciting future while maximizing results today.
Time and space for reflection is crucial for strategic process but struggling with how to navigate change might take you away from your day-to- day workload and leadership goals. You want to identify challenges before they disrupt productivity. You want to innovate your approach and stay ahead of competition.
You need a strong management team, trustworthy and flexible, to ensure fast problem solving and focus on strategic initiatives. You need to keep innovation alive with talent and engage on new ways to motivate employees and keep them dedicated, thus providing the reassurance and sense of stability an organization needs.
A sustainability strategy helps evolve your company’s mission and prioritize quality, people and community:
- Define the company’s long-term purpose. Here we mean a higher, social purpose. This should be shared across the company so that all employees can relate to it. This will create meaning for them in and at work.
- Explain why sustainability is good for the company. As we posted in Step Aside Fortune 500: ESG Rankings Are Key to Corporate Growth, there is a connection between financial performance and sustainability strategies and reporting. CSE research has found that of companies with the highest Sustainability scores (as ranked by CSRHub), 73% improved financial results. Sustainability Reporting and comprehensive strategies regarding community, employees, governance and environment correlate to a positive impact on profitability.
- Promote and support a “people first” approach, nurturing a strong company culture. Stress the values of respect, safety and inclusion. A comprehensive Sustainability strategy includes and prioritizes these issues. Make sure you reinforce this through goals and training. Establish and support rewards and compensations scheme beyond legislation requirements.
- Provide purpose to your employees. Purpose is a key to creating an engaged and productive workforce, beyond day-to-day completion of tasks and income. Sustainability provides that higher purpose needed to match the values of employees. Find ways to get all employees, from top executives to assembly line workers, personally engaged in corporate sustainability efforts.
- Promote sustainability knowledge. Invest in educating employees about sustainability and creating systems and processes that make it easier for them to integrate sustainability into their business decisions. Many sustainability initiatives require specialized knowledge and expertise — such as talking to suppliers about sustainable sourcing or using an eco-efficiency tool to evaluate a new product.
- Use your leadership to inspire and create sustainability champions. In order to embed a sustainable business model, you have to create and cultivate sustainability champions or “ambassadors” throughout the organization. This way, employees will feel that their role enables them to contribute to the sustainability agenda. Employees contributing their own ideas or initiatives is a process that has proven valuable: Once employees see the positive impact and economic returns on social and environmental investments that they helped create, they start believing that they do have a role to play, and the ideas start to flow.
- Make sustainability visible inside and outside the company. Measure and communicate progress or success on key sustainability indicators, as this is always attractive and will keep employees satisfied from their own contribution. To keep visibility high and reinforce the idea that achievements in sustainability are meaningful for the company, celebrate success when goals are reached, or awards won (such as category leadership in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index).
- Stand firm on social issues – and because you cannot please everyone, focus on values important to you and the company.
- Create transformational change through sustainability. Leaders who can see the broader picture and are working to solve major environmental and social issues will help create a sustainability momentum to foster a sense of unity among employees that goes beyond traditional competition and can demonstrate the higher purpose.
Want to learn more about how you can leverage your sustainability efforts to motivate employees and strengthen efficiency? Attend the Centre for Sustainability and Excellence (CSE) Sustainability (ESG) Leadership Workshop for C-Suite Executives, June 4-5, 2019, in New York.
The CSE Leadership Workshop is a C-Suite gathering of key corporate influencers working together to motivate employees and supply chains, to turn competition into collaboration and to influence policy on the sustainability concerns most impacting social, environmental, workplace and marketplace arenas. Participants will develop strategy, hone techniques and actively design the future of corporate sustainability. The workshop incorporates exclusive training, facilitated discussions and intimate conversations to culminate in thought leadership and actionable steps for an integrated approach toward addressing the most pressing issues of our time.
CSE specializes in global sustainability consulting, research and training. Clients include governments, NGOs and Fortune 500 companies. CSE is accredited by CMI and is a GRI organizational stakeholder.