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THE INCREASING SIGNIFICANCE OF SUSTAINABILITY IN BUSINESS

A new report by Unily has highlighted the dominating role sustainability has to play in the way organisations are viewed by employees and the future of the workplace.

WORDS: ISABEL OVERTON

22nd December 2020

Employee experience platform and intranet provider Unily has released a new report, undertaken alongside environmental and sustainability expert Dr Leyla Acaroglu, that explores how sustainability, Covid-19 and climate change are impacting the world of work.

The Future of Workplace Sustainability Report identifies six key megatrends – and the forces of change driving them – that are predicted to have a greater impact on employers and employees alike, highlighting the urgency for internal communicators to address them.


A need for change

As part of the report, a survey was conducted with research company Censuswide to establish how the megatrends are affecting the way employees feel about sustainability in the workplace.

The topic is one close to employees’ hearts, as 72 per cent of respondents say they are concerned about environmental ethics – but the results revealed a stark disconnect between how employees view their own values against those of their employers.

Most respondents (83 per cent) feel their company is not doing enough to tackle big sustainability issues; and 80 per cent feel their company’s environmental values are either not aligned or only partially aligned with their own.


65%
Respondents who claim they are more likely to work for a company with a strong environmental policy.


It seems the case for becoming a more sustainable business isn’t just an ethical one. Mark Sahal, Unily’s chief operations officer, says: “If we read between the lines, we can conclude that a large percentage of people would think about turning down a job if it didn’t have a good track record environmentally.

“This mindset is on an upward trend, and it’s something that organisations shouldn’t overlook if they want to attract and retain the best talent.”

To address this, businesses need to make their stance on important issues clear.

“If we take the example of pollution prevention – a megatrend identified in the report – it is clear that this is something that affects everyone. If, however, as an organisation you haven’t taken the time to talk to your employees about it, they will have no way of knowing that it is something you have considered,” says Mark.

“This transparency will lessen the chances of employees making false presumptions, and it will also help the organisation hold itself to account, making sure your actions align with what you communicate.”


Bringing employees on the journey

As well as providing food for thought, the report aims to aid organisations as they take the necessary steps to improve their environmental output, by including a diagnostic toolkit that can be used to assess which stage of the sustainability journey they are at.

“This key tool is a helpful way for organisations to figure out what areas they need to start focusing on,” says Mark. “There can be a lot to cover, so it’s easier to take it step by step.”

Once you’re clear on where the organisation is within its sustainability journey, consider what your people want and expect, and how this aligns with your business strategy and goals.

“Engage your workforce and spend time talking to and surveying people about what they think is important,” says Mark (pictured). “Once the initial engagement period is over and you have decided your next steps, use your internal comms platforms to communicate it and provide updates.
 



“Being a sustainable organisation isn’t just about the actions that you take behind the scenes. It’s also about how you bring employees on the journey with you and empower them to be environmentally conscious.

“Talk to people about what you’re doing as you’re doing it, and tell them how they can support you, whether this be through charitable fundraising or personal actions that they can take themselves – everyone has to be involved or you won’t get buy-in.”

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed and at a loss for where to start, make use of external expertise to help the organisation set realistic goals. 

“At Unily, we went out to the market and worked with an external adviser who was able to look at the business from a third-party point-of-view. This gave us a solid foundation to build a plan from.”


Providing remote support

Organisations may feel that it isn’t their place to discuss employees’ sustainability practices outside of the workplace, but with so many people working from home, our professional spaces have crossed into our personal ones.

“There’s no reason to not keep people informed on ways they can make a difference to the environment, no matter how small,” says Mark.

“While you can’t dictate what actions your employees take, you can still encourage people to consider their carbon footprint at home and give them resources that will help them to consider the options available to them, such as which energy suppliers use renewable energy, and the benefits of this.

“And as an organisation, if you continue to communicate what you’re doing around sustainability, it’s likely to get employees considering their own impact, wherever they may be.”

You can download and read the Future of Workplace Sustainability Report in full for free from Unily’s website.  

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