What is Sustainability?

How clarifying this concept can help engage employees

I challenge you to ask randomly 3 people around you what Sustainability means … and you will get very different answers !

For most it’s related to economic sustainability (businesses making profit so they can survive and be “sustainable” long term). For others, Sustainability is related to the environment and how we can protect Earth and life on it. Sustainability you may hear, is all about social justice. For some, Sustainability is “has been” as needs to be replaced by other concepts such as “positive impact”, resilience etc … 

This same discussion is true for organizations.

Sustainability may have completely different meanings and content from one company to another. While for some organizations Sustainability will be equal to Corporate Social Responsibility, for others this may not have anything in common. In certain sectors, such as banking, ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) may be the norm. For some, Philanthropy is part of Sustainability and CSR. 

My point here is not to make a judgment about these concepts and the terminology, what I would like to highlight here is that it’s important to clarify what Sustainability means for your organization when engaging employees

Photo by andre-hunter-on-unsplash

Why is it important to reframe it in your terms for employees?

  • First, it will give a clear idea of what you are talking about and what your organization is committed to.
  • This will clarify what your strategy is about and what your Sustainability focus is.
  • Furthermore, it will give an idea to employees on where they could engage in and how to be part of your organizations’ Sustainability journey. 

“Educate” employees about Sustainable Development

When teaching and running workshops around Sustainability, I usually also share the most frequently quoted definition of Sustainable Development, as it gives a long term vision of the triple importance of social, environmental and economic sustainability.

It’s important that people have the possibility to discuss this and articulate what that means for their everyday lives, at work, at home and possibly for their children, too. 

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

Without overcomplicating things, it may be useful (if it’s a priority for your organization) to make employees acquainted to other concepts such as what the Triple Bottom Line means and how this has been a challenge, even for integrated reporting pioneers. 

Furthermore, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, could be a fun and engaging practical exercise to translate “global goals” into what that means for your business. You can use The Global Compact’s framework on how your business can advance on the SDGs

As former WBCSD president Björb Stigsson said:

Business cannot succeed in societies that fail”.

I encourage you to help your employees understand what that means!

What does Sustainability mean for YOUR organization or for YOU? Leave a comment below! 

Like and share to inspire other! 

If you want more ideas on how to engage employees on your Sustainability journey, download the free guide “5 steps to activate positive impact from within”

Written by Marena Eirich, founder of teams4purpose®. My mission is to make action on Sustainability accessible to employees. 

#EmbraceSustainability #positiveimpact #employeeengagement #sustainability #empowerment #empowering #purpose #purposedriven #stepup #climatechange #climateaction #CSR #CorporateSocialResponsibility #teams4purpose

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