As more organizations begin looking into sustainability, one of the first things they realize is that an effective sustainability program requires developing a company-wide “culture of sustainability.”
But in order to create this culture of shared goals, values, and beliefs, “companies must fully understand what sustainability is all about,” says Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group—a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning industry—and CEO of Sustainability Dashboard Tools, which helps facilities monitor and measure their use of natural resources. “This is crucial, especially when beginning a sustainability journey,” explains Ashkin. He says that company executives should keep in mind the following nine facts before creating a culture of sustainability.
1. Sustainability involves three key components: social, environmental, and economic. These three components, also known as the three pillars, work together to form an effective sustainability program, Ashkin explains.
2. Sustainability can protect business operations. “For instance, Starbucks is leading efforts to head off climate change because climate change is increasingly making soil unsuitable for growing some types of coffee,” Ashkin says.
3. Sustainability can reduce costs and improve financial outcomes by streamlining operations.
4. Sustainability initiatives can help protect a company from economic risks and, for their staff, the loss of jobs.
5. A culture of sustainability requires staffers to be sustainability-focused both at work and in their personal lives.
6. For sustainability programs to take hold, staffers must view them as key to the company’s future success.
7. Having a sustainability leader or “champion” to direct sustainability initiatives greatly increases buy-in from workers.
8. Establishing sustainability teams throughout a company encourages leadership at all levels, further enhancing buy-in.
9. Honoring staffers who have suggested sustainability initiatives increases morale and engagement and can lead to more initiatives and cost savings over time.
“With the facts in place, the value of sustainability becomes very clear,” Ashkin says. “This helps create a culture of sustainability throughout an organization, allowing companies and their employees to reap the cost savings and other benefits.”