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How to create a sustainable business from the inside out?

Sustainable businesses retain and attract the best people

When you commit to developing a more sustainable organisation, it can bring many business benefits; including to your bottom line.

Today, we live in a dynamic world that is changing the way organisations are regarded by employees and future talent, as well as the wider community.

Younger generations are no longer satisfied with simply going to work to ‘earn a living’. They are more demanding and principled in their approach, and their expectations from you as an employer are far greater than ever before.

 By creating a business with meaning, purpose and a real commitment to sustainability, you can develop deep loyalty with your employees which in turn can lead to increased productivity of more than 16% (2013 study, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)).

Not only that, when you show you are an organisation that cares about making a difference, it enhances your reputation and ultimately your standing as an employer of choice.

True sustainability is built on three pillars: Planet, People and Profit. Investing in all three is your commitment to building an organisation that people are proud to join, contribute to and stay with.

“64% of millennials said they wouldn’t take a job at a company that wasn’t socially responsible; three quarters said that they’d take a smaller salary to work at a company more in alignment with their values.”

(2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study)

Where do you start in building a socially responsible and sustainable business from the Inside Out?

Start at the top:

  1. Take the lead, think about ‘felt leadership’ – showing not telling and leading by example. Nothing speaks louder than action and behaviour. People need to see a commitment and strategy throughout the organisation, from its heart and root. If you want buy in from your teams, you need to demonstrate that your vision to create a sustainable organisation isn’t just a whim or PR ploy but is absolute intent.
  2. Make sure you are seen and that you communicate and listen.

Have a clear purpose and vision and ensure it fits with the values and culture of your organisation:

  1. Be consistent with who you are as an organisation.
  2. Don’t be hypocritical. Does your plan fit with your historic ways of doing things?
  3. Be realistic but ambitious. It’s more than simply recycling paper or changing to paper coffee cups.
  4. Communicate this vision and ambition.

Engage with and empower your teams to develop the plan to achieve this vision:

  1. Set up Employee Focus groups – what does ‘Sustainability’ mean to them? What do they expect from you as an employer? What is important to them? What are their ideas? How do they want your organisation to behave? And then act on this.
  2. Create Sustainability Champions – and empower them to be the driver to becoming a sustainable business.
  3. Communicate consistently and openly – be honest and transparent about the challenges and drivers.
  4. Listen to and involve people at all layers of the organisation.

Create a clear plan and commitment that demonstrates what you are striving to achieve and how you are going to get there:

  1. Be clear about what you are going to do and achieve by when.
  2. Ensure the plan is embedded across different layers of the organisation.
  3. Communicate the plan and be held accountable.
  4. Check in, feed back, encourage and continue to listen.

True sustainability is built on three pillars: Planet, People and Profit. Investing in all three is your commitment to building an organisation that people are proud to join, contribute to and stay with.

Thank you to the  East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) Business Network magazine and Editor Dan Robinson for the feature this month in the Business Network.