World Environment Day: Should business leaders inspire employees to adopt sustainable practices in their professional and personal lives?

Incorporating sustainability into your business strategy mix is not only good for the planet but there are increasing numbers of reports to support that it is also good for business. Due to shifting global viewpoints, more companies are recognising the need for sustainable practices as part of their business strategy and bridging the knowledge-to-action gap among workers.

Following World Environment Day on the 5th June, we spoke to four business leaders to get their thoughts on whether business leaders should inspire employees to adopt sustainable practices in their professional or personal lives. Here is what they had to say:

Parry Jones, Deputy CEO, What’s Possible Group

“The short answer is yes. The planet is on fire, and businesses can, and should, be part of the solution.

“Making change means investment, and leaders must commit to adopting sustainable practices as a tier-one, C-suite objective to ensure it doesn’t drop off the strategic agenda. If we want to inspire, we have to walk the walk.

“From our experience at the What’s Possible Group, it’s vital to corral employees who have a passion for making a difference and work with them to engage the broader business in what you’re doing. While not everyone can play an active role, enthusiasm and passion are contagious. People take pride in seeing the company make a difference and begin to get involved, particularly in areas of personal interest.

“But it’s not a one-way street. The commitment to change must be owned at the top. But we can all learn and be inspired by our colleagues wherever they sit in a business.”

Richard Robinson, Director, Econsultancy

“ESG needs to be more than a triumph of powerpoint if your brand or business wants long-term customer relationships built on something more than a transaction. And it should be no different when business leaders think of their employees because employees who feel a sense of purpose in their work tend to be happier, healthier, and more productive.

“Operating sustainably, or laying the pathway to becoming a sustainable business starts at the top, demonstrating the future of business is based on the value business adds to the world as well the wallet. A simple place to start is making your E-commerce more sustainable. How will you make the decisions today to use digital as a force for good to build the future?”

Nick Blenkarne, Creative Strategy Director, Imagination

“To have any chance of quelling the triple emergency of global temperatures rising too quickly for people and nature to adapt, habitat loss leading to extinction, and pollution that continues to poison our air, land and water, we must transform our economies to be more connected with nature. But that requires everyone to take responsibility and to enact systemic change, we need collective urgency and action.

“At a business level, change happens through a culture that is shaped by business leaders, and so for this message to filter through and become realised, regardless of the industry or sector, it absolutely must be something that is put on the top of the agenda by senior leaders.

“Employees at all levels need clear direction and education about the sustainability goals of their organisation, as well as the actions they should take to help meet them. We also need to think beyond our own operations and practices, considering those of the suppliers we choose to work with too. In the experience industry, for example, tools like Isla’s trace tool enables businesses and employees to measure impact holistically and make positive changes accordingly.”

Nikki Cunningham, Managing Director, Curious

“It’s becoming hard to avoid sustainable choices as more and more ways to live a more environmentally-friendly life can now be found pretty much everywhere. For example, all of the bins from my local park have just been removed in an effort to reduce litter. You’d think the opposite would happen, but interestingly that hasn’t been the case – people just take their rubbish away with them.

“Because of much higher awareness and education on the subject, we all now know how we need to behave as individuals. Some follow it to a greater extent than others, and there are still choices to be made, but at least the choices are there. And it is a business’s responsibility to provide those choices and options to reduce the impact on the environment. No longer is it a case of accepting brownie points for just having a recycling bin, companies need proper plans and communications around what they are doing to cut down on waste and energy usage – it is central to how employees view the brand and what it stands for.

“At Curious, we’re incredibly aware of the impact we have on the environment and are currently reviewing any and all ways to create a more sustainable working environment, from how to deal with our coffee machine to switching the whole company to use the planet friendly – a search engine that plants a tree every time you want to find something out online.

“As a well-known supermarket once said, every little helps.”