Ways to Promote Sustainability from Within: Training for the Future
Sooner or later, every place of work will be shifting towards sustainability. Here’s how you can train from the inside.
Sustainability has become a key focus for companies worldwide, with the need to have a positive impact on the environment and society. Amidst the growing emphasis on sustainability, however, businesses face a pressing challenge: the gap between sustainability rhetoric and actual implementation.
In recent years, sustainability has become mainstream, with companies across the globe issuing sustainability reports, setting goals, and making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. While companies strive to showcase their commitment to environmental responsibility externally, it may not always align with the reality of organizational practices. The problem lies in the misalignment between what is preached and what is actually done. It is not enough to simply tout sustainability initiatives; organizations must cultivate a culture that truly values sustainability from within. And what’s even more troubling, studies have even indicated that some companies exaggerate their progress in sustainability.
To bridge this gap, we, as members of organizations, must start by fostering an authentic and realistic internal approach to sustainability. To achieve a comprehensive and sustainable transformation, we can be agents of change in our workplaces by focusing on prioritizing the integration of three key pillars: values, which shape the ethical foundation and guide decision-making, knowledge, which encompasses the understanding of sustainable practices and principles, and skills, which empower employees to actively participate in and drive sustainability initiatives within the organization. We each play a crucial role in this journey and can bring about this change from the inside. And our ability to do so is much easier than you imagine.
The Green Makeover in Corporate Values
Organizational culture plays a crucial role in shaping behaviors and practices within a company. It acts as a compass, guiding employees and management towards common goals and perspectives. By aligning the internal culture with external sustainability efforts, organizations can foster a sense of purpose and commitment to sustainability among their workforces.
Adopting sustainable principles necessitates a fundamental shift in the values embraced by both managers and employees. This transformative process involves two essential components: sensemaking and sensegiving within the organization. Sensemaking refers to the active interpretation and understanding of the cues and messages delivered by management through events, initiatives, communications, and strategies. Employees collectively make sense of these cues, connecting the dots and shaping a new vision of sustainability. While sensegiving is the top-down process where management actively provides guidance and direction, helping employees comprehend and embrace the organizational shift towards sustainability. It is through this dynamic interaction between sensemaking and sensegiving that a shared sustainable culture can emerge, aligning values, perspectives, and actions within the organization.
Rallying Up the Green Learning Curve
To promote sustainability from within, it is crucial to cultivate a learning environment that empowers both management and employees. Encouraging participation in courses and training programs focused on sustainability is key. Online resources, such as the free courses offered by the United Nations, can provide individuals with valuable insights, and keep them updated on relevant topics in the ever-evolving field of sustainability. Additionally, organizations can take the initiative to create a comprehensive learning path that guides employees from different divisions on a transformative journey towards embracing a more sustainable culture. By investing in continuous learning and knowledge sharing, companies can empower their workforce to become champions of sustainability.
Moulding Soft Skills for a Hard Impact
In addition to knowledge, developing soft skills is crucial for actively embracing the shift towards sustainability. Three, in particular, stand out for an internal green shift: forward-thinking, creative problem-solving, and effective communication of purpose.
- Being forward-thinking is not just about identifying opportunities; it’s about creating them. It involves anticipating challenges and transforming them into avenues for growth and innovation. In the context of sustainability, being forward-thinking translates to recognizing the necessity of ecological balance and the role a business can play in achieving it.
Forward-thinking businesses view sustainability as a strategy for economic success, recognizing the long-term benefits of green practices, from renewable energy to waste reduction. They use sustainability to inspire their employees, fostering a culture that values innovative, sustainable solutions. Embracing sustainability is not optional, but a strategic must for future-proofing operations and thriving in a sustainable future.
- Embracing sustainability calls for innovative thinking and a willingness to explore uncharted territories. To thrive, professionals need to come up with creative solutions and devise imaginative approaches to new and intricate challenges. One way to do so is by holding brainstorming sessions that are judgment-free. By cultivating an environment where people feel supported and comfortable expressing out-of-the-box ideas that can be just the innovative kick your company needs to move forward into sustainability.
- Communicating the purpose and importance of sustainability is vital for engaging employees and stakeholders. Employing techniques like storytelling, self-disclosure, statistics, data visualization, and personal reflection questions can effectively convey the urgency and significance of sustainability initiatives. Ultimately, think of why your message needs to be heard by both your team members and stakeholders in your organization and motivate them to develop a sense of purpose and commitment towards sustainability.
In the pursuit of sustainability, it’s crucial to ensure that your organization’s internal efforts match the external communications. By cultivating the necessary skills internally, you create a harmonious synergy between your words and actions. This alignment not only strengthens your credibility but also sparks a ripple effect, inspiring others to follow suit. Remember, actions speak louder than emissions.
 “Sustainable Business Went Mainstream in 2021.” Available at: https://hbr.org/2021/12/sustainable-business-went-mainstream-in-2021
 “Climate change: Top companies exaggerating their progress – study.” Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-60248830
 “Changing Organizational Culture to Establish Sustainability.” Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12176-021-0379-4
 “Organizing and the Process of Sensemaking.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/211395920_Organizing_and_the_Process_of_Sensemaking
 “Digital4Sustainability Learning Path.” Available at: https://www.unssc.org/courses/digital4sustainability-learning-path
 “8 Sustainability Skills for Working Professionals.” Available at: https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/sustainability-skills
Author: Giuseppe Scandariato
Latest from the Magazine