How to implement a culture of sustainability in your organisation

Culture, its all about the intangible

The culture of an organisation is surprisingly easy to notice but difficult to understand and even harder to change. It can be observed from the mission statements in the employee handbook down to the fish option in the canteen on a Friday but it inhabits all of your colleagues and co-workers in an intangible way.

A company’s culture is crafted from the top down, via its hiring policy, via carefully crafted team building exercises and is based on shared experiences and attitudes. Commonly held beliefs and customs as well as written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time.

This is why although it is very easy to see the effects of culture it can be very difficult to affect it. This applies to all aspects of corporate culture, from fostering a culture of innovation or suitability all the way up to trying to promote a culture of energy management.

Promoting a culture of sustainability

The great news is that it is not impossible to change the culture of an organisation, many business have done it. Just that it cannot and will not happen over night and that you should be prepared to continually improve. These 5 steps will help most organisations that are looking to reduce their business’s impact on the environment.

1 Engage Everyone!

If you are trying to change the organisation’s way of thinking, acting and being then it stands to reason that you should actually involve them. Coming up with a dynamic plan after months and months of consultancy and then presenting it to your colleagues is a sure fire way to make sure no one pays attention to any of your plan.

Begin the conversation in your work place. What are the reasons for your push towards sustainability, what does sustainability mean to you collectively? These types of questions will help employees begin to take ownership of the subject at hand and eventually will yield greater benefits in whatever systems you are trying to bring into your workplace. Once you have

Communication during this process is key. Making sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected can make the difference between a management system and a business changing operation.

2 Look at what other people are doing

Chances are you are not the first company to try and introduce a sustainability policy, in fact some of your competitors may have also done the same. Look around for case studies, speak to organisations that have already undergone their process and ask them what they had success with, what they would do again and what they would change.

Finding counterparts in other organisations should be mandatory to keep abreast of industry developments and to help network and build your business. No company can ever say it cannot improve and growing, learning and developing is one of the signs of a truely great business.

Don’t forget to look around for failures as well, as Eleanor Roosevelt famously once said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

3 Have clear goals, produce a mission statement, measure your success

Setting objectives for any project is a must. If you cannot measure what you are doing and you have no way of tracking how well a project is going then what exactly are you doing?

SMART objectives are vital here. Specific, we will reduce our water consumption, the amount of CO2 or our energy usage. Measurable, they goals need to be quantifiable. Attainable, nothing worse than being told to do the impossible. Relevant, why would we talk about our customer service policies in our sustainability program. Timely, that these goal  have a fixed period that they can be achieved in.

A clear mission statement outlining what the business is doing, why it is doing it and what it hopes to achieve is key to changing the culture of sustainability. This gives everyone a clear idea of what they are doing and how it helps the organisation and the environment.

4 Be prepared to invest

To promote sustainability you will have to invest in your organisation. This might be time, it could be cash but either way it means that some of your business’s resources will be dedicated toward the achievement of these commons goals.

Some areas of investment may be a specific staff member who is the champion for sustainability in the organisation and who reports to the senior management of the developments within the organisation. Perhaps you are looking to reduce your water usage, investment in water monitoring and measurement would be a key investment area.

To make the long term savings with an ISO 14001 Environmental Management or ISO 50001 Energy Management system then this kind of investment is key and is often overlooked.

5 Focus on continuous improvement

Organisations who are looking for a quick fix can be disappointed and lose enthusiasm when their management system doesn’t bring them the massive gains in the first year or first quarter. However smart organisations realise that no matter how developed their sustainability management system is that it can always be improved.

Organisations that bounce from plan to plan, seeking big improvements generally fair less well than businesses that make a plan and stick to it. An independently assessed management system helps to focus all hands on what the organisation is doing and why it is doing it. This reinforcement and rationalisation is vital to promoting the results that keeps the culture of sustainability at the for front of people’s minds.

Slow and steady wins the sustainability race and companies should be reminded to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Taking time out to celebrate what you have achieved is important.

Talk to us about how we can help you grow your culture of sustainability

If you want to talk to us about an ISO 14001 Environmental Management system, an ISO 50001 Energy Management system or even about how we can help promote a culture of sustainability in your organisation then you can contact us today!

Person with laptop and hardhat ISO certification
Robert Lyons
Robert Lyons


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