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Engage for Sustainability

Sustainability-TotemIntroducing the triple bottom line.

With increasing pressure from government targets, a growing sustainability agenda and many businesses just keen to survive, what do we need to know about sustainability and engaging our people to deliver it?

What are sustainable businesses?

Quite simply: Businesses that last and can do so without damaging others, the environment or their profits. Great businesses achieve this by focusing on the triple bottom line or three P’s – people, planet, profit.

Where does engagement come in?

The common assumption is that engagement fits in the people section. But to be successful in all three P’s businesses need engagement in all areas – so that people through every level of the organisation are driving success for the triple bottom line.

People – Successful organisations work to engage people, respect, reward and develop them to deliver high performance. But what is often missed is that every individual needs to take accountability for this. Engagement doesn’t just happen through some kind of event or initiative run by HR or senior management – it is the outcome of people offering respect, reward and development to each other.

Planet – Sustainable businesses endeavour to reduce their impact upon the natural world. They consider ways of reducing waste or even better, using waste as a resource to boost profits. Whether you believe climate change is an issue or not, it’s a no-brainer to make more profit rather than more waste. And as the consumer increasingly chooses more environmentally-friendly suppliers, we need to keep up, or lose out.

Far from just asking people to save electricity which is often the extent of a business’ sustainability campaign, this is about having your people so engaged that they are creatively finding ways to better use resources

Profit – In an age where costs are constantly rising, we have to be pretty creative to grow profits. Whether the focus is on increasing the profit margin or increasing sales to boost overall revenue, we constantly need more ideas on how to attract buyers, increase their average spend and keep them coming back. Once again it is your people who know how to do this. They see the new customers, they see the wasted products, they see the marketing material that does and does not work. Engage your people to come up with the ideas that will sustainably grow profit.

How can we engage our people?

Here are some top tips from the companies that are doing this well:

  • Find out what motivates your people – at an individual level, why do they come to work?
  • Have a senior leader explain the corporate vision and how it splits into objectives for the three P’s – linking this in to what motivates your audience.
  • Find out who the trend-setters are in each location or department. Not eco-warriers but influencers, the ones people listen to.
  • Ask each trend-setter to lead a group on a specific objective, linking your request to their motives.
  • Communicate plans to generate ideas for success – linking the goals to individual motives.
  • Set up events at each location, lead by the trend-setters, to get people involved and generate ideas.
  • Deliver the good ideas, measure the effects, celebrate success and keep going!