Katja Schoenle and Reto Saurenmann from PvL Partners offer an insight on how to boost your sustainability journey in your company with a pragmatic bottom-up approach leveraging the intrinsic motivation of your people.
“How can you as a company embark on the sustainability journey?” Many companies ask themselves this question, because they experience pressure of various stakeholders like customers, employees, regulators and shareholders, as they demand sustainability as an increased business focus. Furthermore, sustainability can also open new opportunities for innovation and improve the quality of decision-making.
To deal with this new trend is everything but simple. It is a very complex issue and many questions do not (yet) have a clear or simple answer due to a lack of standards or guidelines. Additionally, the purely monetary benefits of sustainability initiatives tend to accure in the long term, which conflicts with the search for short-term profits.
PvL Partners faced the same question. Motivated employees launched the topic in our company by organizing “sustainability breakfasts”. These breakfasts fostered the brainstorming and shaped the sustainability aspiration and approach we are following today. During this movement, we have discovered that we have the biggest impact, advising our client on how to operationalize sustainability leveraging our core-offering in strategy, structure and people.
Sustainability is also about defining clear goals, translating them into a suitable mindset and culture, and creating the right structures to enable the transition into sustainability in the long term. Therefore, we have developed a pragmatic four-step approach, which addresses sustainability holistically and allows an effective implementation of sustainability strategies.
The first step is to identify and activate intrinsically motivated employees. The goal is to stimulate their interest with specific brainstorming or ideation sessions leveraging the SDGs or UN global compact principles. The point is to bring the employees on a common level of knowledge and understanding of the problem. This group of people then form a taskforce and take on the responsibility for the implementation of sustainability within the company.
In a second step, a concrete sustainability goal must be defined together with the management. There is no generally valid solution for sustainability goals. Net-zero targets are tempting, but usually lay relatively far in the future. We would therefore propose targets along the most important income streams in order to have the biggest possible impact. These targets are then broken down into concrete plans and individual contributions across all functions and departments. The goal is to create clarity and transparency.
After this, it is a matter of defining responsibilities and operationalizing sustainability in the corporate structure and culture. At best, intrinsically motivated employees can play a role here again as sustainability ambassadors. In addition, it should be examined whether new mandates, KPIs or committees are necessary or whether the existing decision-makers can also be leveraged for sustainability-specific topics. In addition, the topic of sustainability can be made more tangible for the entire company, for example, by means of gamification nudges.
In order to keep the momentum high and to ensure that the energy of the intrinsically motivated does not fade away after a few months, the topic should be constantly driven forward by a cross-functional community. These ambassadors or energizers can keep the sustainability drive going through various initiatives, events, nudges and by celebrating successes. In addition, the achievements and efforts regarding sustainability should of course be recognized and rewarded by management.
This pragmatic approach will help you and your company embark on the sustainability journey. If you would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our Sustainability Practice (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We are convinced that this topic can be introduced and promoted pragmatically and effectively even in smaller companies. Identifying, mobilizing and encouraging intrinsically motivated employees in your company is a powerful tool to kick-off your path to sustainability.
Who are we?
We are PvL Partners, a Strategy consulting boutique that bridges the gap between strategy definition and the translation into corporate structure and culture. We attach great importance to a co-creative approach when developing solutions with clients. As business architects we try to approach our clients' problems in a very holistic and long-term way to have a sustainable impact.