After what was a “Snowy February” for most of us across the United States, coupled with a fair dose of Texas snow, and its hilarious memes over the internet, it is only natural to be confused about climate change and the threat it poses.
However, to embrace a future of business where people, the planet, and profits all equally important, we need a shift in perspective. Our businesses cannot succeed in a society designed to fall apart because it is obsessed with profits. Instead, we must work and lobby together to build back better and increase societal resilience.
How do we achieve what we’ve set out to achieve and cascade purpose to our employees?
We all care about climate change. Most of us want to be part of the solution. However, we lack knowledge, motivation, and access to solutions – making us sustainability bystanders, perennially waiting for others to take action. Instilling a sense of sustainability ownership among employees and other stakeholders is the only way forward.
In business, we ought to leverage corporate communication to drive sustainability behaviors.
In a large organization, why should sustainability be the responsibility of one department? We must make it everyone’s job. To drive this change in behavior and shift the traditional way of doing business, we must rethink our communication strategy and the corporate narrative.
1. Articulate “Why We Do What We Do”
According to a study by PwC, today over 93% of companies describe their purpose as beyond making money for shareholders. However, only 53% of organizations have a clear purpose statement.
This is not good news as the new sustainable business paradigm requires us to build a clear, transparent narrative, positioning long-term purpose at its core. Articulating a well-defined purpose internally and externally is a necessary first step.
How do we cascade purpose through the organization so that every employee internalizes that purpose? Simple, yet profound. Through the following initiatives:
- Inspire by going beyond profits and focusing on the “value to society” created by the company.
- Ensure that every talk given by the CEO and senior leadership touches on sustainability and purpose.
- Highlight what has changed in the company as a result of sustainability-related business activities.
As Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, once said: “Without a sense of purpose, no company, either public or private, can achieve its full potential. It will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders.”
2. Empower Stakeholders to Act sustainably
Building communication that aligns with corporate and personal values is the first step. It is important to build a system that drives transparency and allows stakeholders to see how they perform both in financial and socio-environmental terms. Relating the impact of KPIs to financial benefits also makes skeptics notice and shift the discussion from whether to what and how.
To make sustainable action second nature and lower costs, all while increasing the benefits of acting sustainably, it’s important we:
- Create training and management systems that promote sustainability in business.
- Design toolkits that make sustainability accessible to all employees and stakeholders.
- Reward responsible behavior via financial incentives and promotion.
3. Conduct Business through the Lens of Sustainability
Rebuilding companies as communities helps promote trust and build a culture that is connected to celebrating the new way of doing business.
Creating an enduring company culture of tolerance, collaboration, and encouragement around sustainability helps employees take pride in their accomplishments and allows them to claim ownership of their job. In addition, communicating this evidence-based progress internally serves as a reminder and motivation of the company’s purpose being put into practice.
Here’s how to help foster a culture that promotes sustainability:
- Use the 3 C’s to entrench ownership: co-create, celebrate and communicate.
- Design an internal communication channel that celebrates both wins and failures.
- Shift to the new paradigm of partnership and collaboration that showcases to employees that it’s “not just about us.”
In the popular words of Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever: “Leadership is not just driving a company, it’s about making it do the right thing. It’s really about helping transform an entire markets and behaviors beyond those your own company is engaged in to the benefit of all.”
This article has been reprinted with permission from CB Bhattacharya’s Linkedin article.