Business leaders often overlook an important voice in corporate sustainability. Don’t forget to utilize your most important asset – your people.
Like navigating a challenging escape room or locating those pesky reading glasses, sustainability leaders can often find solutions right under their noses. (Or on top of our head. Anyone else?)
Any successful corporate sustainability program must include staff from day one.
Genuinely involving staff early in the process invites ownership and inclusion. Gauge the temperature of the people in your organization on sustainability. Ask staff what sustainability initiatives would mean the most to them.
Ask the Experts
Employees are the technical specialists in their respective tasks. If asked, they are often eager to open up and share. They’ll often offer creative solutions for savings on activities dear to them or relevant to their work. They’ll be motivated to take action and ownership. Simply asking could save you money and earn valuable buy-in down the road. But first, you must show you value their input.
Remember, you go to great lengths to hire smart people. Make sure you harness their collective brainpower when it comes to sustainability. Learn the power of asking the right questions. The difference of a couple of choice words can improve the quality of response rates.
The good news is you don’t need to have all the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask for input. Like the “lost Dad” stereotype, I’ve seen leaders too afraid to shove their ego aside to ask for directions. They missed out on huge opportunities to gain valuable insights. (Or the route to the nearest restroom.)
Sustainability surveys also provide an optimal opportunity to check-in on employees well being. For example, how motivated are they feeling? What other challenges are they facing? When was the last time they weren’t wearing slippers during a Zoom call with a client?
Genuine efforts to request staff feedback outside of annual review cycles show you value your employees’ input. Offer an anonymous option to ensure employees feel safe to share their ideas. Provide incentives for ideas or policies that executive leadership may adopt. (Remember the appeal of a bonus?)
When it comes to sustainability surveys, don’t stop with staff. For extra credit, you may also invite your Board and even key customers to complete the survey. Inviting key stakeholders to take part in the process will help deepen relationships. It can also serve as a great backstop to show how company priorities tie to stakeholder feedback.
Open Ears, Open Mind
Don’t forget the most important part. Pay attention to the responses!
Leadership should salivate over the opportunity to read every survey response. Survey results are a veritable gold-mine of internal data points. Like finding that roll of hundred dollar bills in the jacket you purchased from the thrift store. You never know what else you might discover.
Don’t feel obligated to make any bold sustainability commitments at this point. (We’ll discuss that in a future article on roadmapping.) Instead, take this time to show staff that you are listening. For a high-impact tip, tap a member of the executive team to provide a high-level summary of survey feedback in the next all-staff engagement. Show employees you value their input.
Use sustainability to help bridge gaps between senior leadership and staff. The results may surprise you.
Check out the next article in this series for tips on continuing your sustainability journey.
You just read article number four in a ten-part 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 start integrating sustainability into your business? Contact Solutions in Sustainability today to share your long-term sustainability goals. We’d enjoy helping you find the right Solutions in Sustainability for you.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.