Acculturation – Seven tips to Normalize Sustainability at Your Organization

Each corporate culture is unique. Find creative ways to build the virtues of sustainability into the DNA of your organization.

I once showed up to a job interview dressed in business casual – slacks and a button-up dress shirt. I was a bit nervous about the reaction to my decision against wearing a suit.

The business owner I was interviewing with entered the room, gave me a once-over, and looked confused by my dress. He was wearing board shorts and sandals.

Given that, I was interviewing for a position as a brewery tour driver…in a brewery…in San Diego. This former midwestern engineer quickly learned to acculturate.

The point being, every company culture is unique! Each organization requires a different approach to garner buy-in for new initiatives. Whether implementing a new payroll system, introducing a new boss, or placing a brand new fro-yo machine in the break room. It takes time to acculturate to changes in the workplace environment. Sustainability is no different. Except for the fro-yo machine – people just get it.

But there’s good news. When it comes to sustainability, you have an endless variety of engagement opportunities at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Learn what works and what doesn’t.

Getting Out of the Harbor

Here are some ideas and tips to help integrate a culture of sustainability within your organization:

  1. Listen to feedback in staff surveys (refer to the previous article). Engage in informal conversations about sustainability with your direct reports. Understand the role of the company through the eyes of stakeholders.
  2. Create a “Green Team” if one doesn’t exist already. Invite employees to be ambassadors of sustainability throughout the organization. Encourage staff participation. If you want to earn a big gold star, invite a representative of the green team to provide regular updates at senior leadership meetings.
  3. Start a series of town halls around sustainability. Invite discussion, and don’t be defensive. Wisdom is everywhere.
  4. Create a panel of customers. Learn what sustainability initiatives are important to them.
  5. Don’t forget to engage your Board. Contrary to popular opinion, the Board will often be your biggest champions and will help open doors. They may even provide ideas or resources of their own.
  6. Let staff hear senior leadership extol the importance of sustainability. Allow for a brief sustainability update during all-staff meetings. Share and celebrate accomplishments.
  7. Query business partners for success stories. Invite partners to share their sustainability stories with your business leaders and staff. Provide opportunities for relationship building and idea-sharing with key business partners such as suppliers or vendors.

Stay the Course

Acculturation involves change. Change is hard. It takes time. Like a sunrise, don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Remember the many benefits of incorporating sustainability into business operations. Whether satisfying customer demand, aligning with employees’ values, or discovering the business imperative from more efficient operations, embedding a culture of sustainability takes time. If done right, the benefits will be well worth the effort.

And in case readers are wondering, despite my dress miscalculations, I landed the job!

Check out the next article in this series for tips on developing attainable sustainability goals.

You just read article number five in a series titled Nine Beacons to Chart Your Business Towards a Sustainable Future. To start from the beginning, check-out the first article in the series. For the entire picture, download the full publication (PDF).

Are you ready to get started on your sustainability journey? Could you use help developing acculturation strategies with your organization? We look forward to helping you find the right Solutions in Sustainability for your business.

About the Author

Alex Kaufman is a science communicator, clean energy specialist, sustainability nerd, professional engineer, travel enthusiast, and resident of San Diego, California. When not helping clients, you can usually find him cycling, hiking, reading, spending time with loved ones, or planning the next big adventure. He is open to speaking engagements. Contact him at

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