The World Health Organization estimate that people spend around one third of their adult life at work; workplaces are therefore instrumental in the sustainable development of our societies and environment. Equally, businesses have a responsibility to embed environmentally sustainable behaviours and values into their workforce.
It can sometimes seem that environmental sustainability is low on the business priority list, but according to KMPG (2015) 92% of the top 250 global companies are reporting on environmental impact as part of their corporate responsibility reports. We know that what gets measured gets managed, and this is definitely a growing trend. But what part does top-management have to play in positive environmental behaviours?
Pro-environmental behaviours from top-management affects the whole business
A 2010 Network for Business Sustainability survey found that top management commitment is the most significant factor in driving corporate sustainability. Employees are much more likely to exhibit sustainable behaviours if there is top management or perceived corporate commitment. This was found to be even more significant a factor than personal values or individual environmental interests.
Not only are actions from top management important, but the language of sustainability is also crucial. Communications should come from top-managers and use positive and motivating vocabulary to rally the workforce into making more sustainable choices towards a goal that is truly meaningful.
Find the compelling reason
People must be intrinsically motivated in order to fully commit to achieving something. That is, employees must feel compelled towards a purpose that is greater than themselves.
For this reason, effective employee engagement and communication is crucial to embedding any change and the most powerful catalyst towards sustainable workplaces.
How to get top-management to commit to corporate sustainability
There is an abundance of positive environmental leadership around the globe, with top corporations making truly meaningful and ambitious commitments to reducing their environmental impact. This is fast becoming an arena within which large companies must perform well in order to grow.
In fact, consumers are beginning to demand ethical products from sustainably conscious companies. A Nielsen survey shows that 72% of millennials are willing to pay more for products and services from brands that commit to having a positive environmental and social impact.
In most industries, sustainability is becoming a vital competing factor and with millennials attributing so much importance to sustainability values, this trend is likely to continue. The plain matter of the fact is that companies not doing their bit will get left behind.
This isn’t a new revelation – businesses have understood the importance of the Triple Bottom Line for many years. Environmental leadership starts with incremental changes in the workplace and develops into a corporate culture with environmental sustainability at its core. And this must be led by top-managers.
We know that the workplace is a crucial frontier on the journey to alleviating climate change and reducing our impact on the planet. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for top-management to get ahead of the competition and make bold environmental commitments.
As we’ve seen, once there is commitment from the top, the rest will follows