VIEWS: All Hands on Deck: Finding Success in Sustainable Integration

Dispatch from the SSC Team

Ever heard of the phrase “random acts of greenness”? If you have, you know it’s not a good thing! “Random acts of greenness” are haphazardly employed sustainability initiatives that bear no clear link to each other or an organization’s overall strategy. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: sustainability must be cohesively integrated throughout the entire organization and not hidden on the to-do list of one person, in one department.

This point is successfully driven home in a recently published study, conducted by three professors from the John F. Donohue Graduate School of Business at Duquesne University, that cites the necessity of weaving sustainability throughout an organization’s culture while utilizing the skill sets of human resources professionals to do so.

Deciding to become a sustainably minded organization is no small undertaking. It essentially requires that a company overhaul its entire business plan. Any time you launch a program that will drastically change the scope of your daily and long-term business, you first collaborate with other departments to ensure a smooth execution and integration. In fact, your first stop would probably be a visit to your organization’s human resources department. Why? Because launching company-wide initiatives through the utilization of strategic communication, training, recruiting and organizational design is HR’s job! So, it’s a no brainer that the department should be heavily involved with the implementation of your organization’s sustainability initiatives.

The previously mentioned study found that organizations that mesh social and environmental initiatives are able to launch long-term sustainability measures while enjoying the support and engagement of employees. In compiling the progress of the organizations surveyed, researchers identified three types of companies: leader firms, people-focused firms and laggard firms (ouch!). Leader firms successfully integrate social and environmental initiatives throughout an organization; people-focused firms have mastered the deliverance of social initiatives; and laggard firms – well, there’s not a whole lot going on in the way of social or environmental strategy within those organizations. Not surprisingly, a key tactic utilized by both leader and people-focused firms is the heavy involvement of HR when launching social or environmental programs. It just makes sense. When cementing sustainability into the core of your business strategy, you need the assistance of professionals who are trained in engaging employees and ensuring that initiatives have long-term effects. By not involving the HR department, you risk deploying sustainable measures in a scattered, non-strategic manner, thus deteriorating the seriousness with which employees take the initiatives.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we get it. Not every company is as well equipped to plan and deliver cohesive sustainability plans. There are many obstacles to conquer along the way, as shifting the culture of an organization is no small feat. Perhaps your organization has resource constraints or lacks employee motivation (we’re talking to you, creatures of habit!). The good news is that sustainability is about creating value and making strategic, long-term decisions. When properly understood and embraced, sustainability is a concept that everyone can get on board with. 

To us, it doesn’t matter which level you are on, be it leader, people-focused or, yes, even laggard. There is always room for improvement and sometimes it’s hardest to progress when you’re on the top. We’re happy to talk you through the planning process or even create a customized sustainability plan targeted to every department within your organization. Sustainability is best served with a side of strategy and we’re here to help you integrate it throughout your organization.

If you'd like more information on change management, please feel free to download our latest whitepaper.