Sustainability: The Benefits of Employee Engagement

Photography by - Andrea Booher

Why should you engage your employees in sustainability? Employees are a company’s essential stakeholders, its “most valuable assets” as often stated in mission statements. John Drummond, the CEO of Corporate Culture who spoke on employee engagement at  the Economist Sustainable Business Summit on March 17 in London considers that “an organization is its employees“, and therefore, a natural component of its sustainability strategy.

In a recent blog post, CSR Consultant Celesa Horvath offered an interesting insight into the benefits of employee engagement in sustainability.

She wrote that in her experience,” early employee engagement enables the development of a bespoke approach to CR and sustainability that is relevant and sensitive to the realities of each specific organization, and which enjoys a high degree of support and buy-in from the outset.”

Engaging employees in sustainability is a perfect opportunity, especially for SMBs, to initially define – or measure the efficiency of – a company’s sustainability strategy.

Other benefits of employees engagement are:

  • Identify and promote internal talent and drive loyalty
  • Inspire staff and impact individual and collective behaviors within or outside the workplace
  • Find solutions to specific sustainability issues
  • Help achieve specific business targets
  • Impact employees motivation
  •  Help attract and retain talent
  •  Make your employees your most valuable “sustainability ambassadors”

Both John and Celesa, acknowledged the fact that the first step towards a successful employee engagement in sustainability is to ensure a clear commitment at the  Board level and a consistent message across the company in case of a ”top-down” initial approach. The role of middle management in this process is essential.

In a recent round-table about employee engagement, participants highlighted the interest of  “an integrated approach, blending top-down & bottom-up ideas” in order to improve sustainability management across departments, employee communications and to inspire the change.

The main idea here is that top management should define the strategic roadmap and then involve employees in defining the ‘how to”.

A top-down roll out may also be appropriate to meet specific ‘efficiency’ goals. Expert Glennon Franklin, Director of Strategic GreenSource, wrote in a recent blog post that “in this stagnant economy, everyone is focused on cutting costs to drive higher profitability” and that  “getting your employees engaged in sustainable business practices is a quick and efficient way to achieve those savings.”

However it is  hard  to engage employees & change behaviour around “dry goals” such as ‘cost-saving’, rules or restrictions (‘don’t; ‘use less’…). That’s why positive actions, that cover both professional and private areas, usually increase employee engagement.

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Why CSR Should be “Business as Usual” for SME’s?

The purpose of our blog & newsletter is not just to give our readers news about Green Den but also to educate and inform. One of the often neglected aspect of CSR is the impact it can have on small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The four pillars of CSR are responsibilities in the workplace, marketplace, community and environment; SMEs play a pivotal role in all four avenues. 90% of the world’s business comes from SMEs and they employ about 50% of the world’s population. The kind of change they are capable of is community-based, continued investment to uplift their key stakeholders. This is something that CSR models based on big companies can never hope to achieve. Change at the grass-root level is what every ethical business dreams of and this is where small enterprises stand to gain enormously.


Diverting away from the kitschy big-business idea of CSR, small business have the advantage of direct interaction with the community from out of which they operate. What they need to be convinced about is whether or not it makes business sense for them to be ‘socially responsible’. The answer is a resounding yes!


First of all it must be stressed that CSR is not just policy, it is a principle of doing business. It is not something that is done as an add-on, it is something that is incorporated into your way of doing business. In this scenario, it offers businesses many benefits in terms of better shareholder relationships and also acts as a powerful tool for word-of-mouth advertising.It offers SMEs added benefits in terms of strengthening their relationship within the community and acting as an example to make people’s lives better. The most important reason why small companies should engage in CSR activities is to improve their export markets. Acting as a part of the supply chain means that export products to a big company needs to meet certain standards all along the chain. This is the single more important competitive benefit that SMEs have by incorporating CSR into their business. It is especially important for small businesses in emerging economies supplying to companies with multiple supply chains.Secondly, mainstreaming CSR into any business is a challenge. By incorporating the principles of CSR in the early stages of growth, SMEs have another advantage over companies that have already reached a certain size. Forming principles, processes and structures becomes easier along with reporting and policy writing. Developing a culture of sustainability within the organization becomes more streamlined and employees know what it means to be sustainable.

Finally, it makes business sense. This is something that the larger companies are beginning to understand. When the small companies jump on this idea, the limits to green business has no bounds. In fact, the term might just become obsolete along with the term ‘business as usual’ because every business will be ethical, sustainable and profitable. This is a dream worth working towards…

The Cost of Un-Sustainability!

Does being green and sustainable always cost more?

There is a common misconception among many corporations, businesses and even consumers that being environmentally responsible always costs more. This could not be farther from the truth. There are instances when greener products or practices may cost more but businesses that incorporate social and environment safeguards actually improve efficiency, reduce waste and increase profits margins. Consumers who practice green living live more fulfilled and healthy lives. While supporting a sustainable environment, they are also ensuring they have a product or service to sell or enjoy tomorrow.

What’s closer to the truth is that being insensitive to the environment and social good will cost businesses heavily in the long run. Per the goodpurpose study, while choosing between two brands of equal quality and price, consumers worldwide value social purpose as the deciding factor over design, innovation and brand loyalty. We can safely say that without social and environmental responsibility, there is no long run!

Companies Can Save The World!

This post by Juan Villamayor originally appeared on his blog – A Touch of Green

The first goal of the United Nations Millennium Development program is to end poverty and hunger. This sounds like something that governments andNGOs are doing already (or should be doing). However, companies and citizens have an important role to play here too. In fact, businesses have tools to reach this goal in an efficient way, mainly through actions along their supply chain.

Both multinational corporations (MNC) and many small and medium entreprises (SMEs) are based in developing countries, or work with suppliers from these countries. What they do and how they do it has a tremendous impact on the lives of many people. Transforming their impact into something positive is not complex. Here are some simple ways how a company can contribute to end poverty and improve living conditions in developing countries:

  • MNC are often on the spotlight due to children labor controversy. Their responsibility is very high since they are also accountable for what their suppliers are doing. With suppliers mainly in India, Turkey and Bangladesh, the clothing retailer H&M knows this very well. This company has launched a program with UNICEF in order to protect the rights of children in cotton producing areas in southern India. Maybe that’s not enough, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  • Very often women are the ones who suffer most the consequences of poverty and exclusion, and most of the time it is due to discrimination and the lack of school education. NIKE supports “girl effect”, a program addressed to adolescent girls in developing countries aimed at improving their lives and giving them a chance for a better future. As NIKE states, “for girls in developing countries, the effects of poverty and lack of resources can often be seen through early marriage, childbirth and increased HIV infection rates. Such setbacks for women also impact their communities.”
  • Let’s take Coca-Cola. Reducing their water consumption is not only a question of sustainability but also a question of cost reduction. However, they are also aware of the fact that access to clean water is a big problem for many people. This problem affects health and complicates the lives of millions of Africans (mainly women), who have to go very long distances to get water for their daily consumption. Coca-Cola Company supports a project in Kenya to provide safe water to primary schools in Western Kenya.

These are examples of how companies can save the world and help eradicate poverty. Us, citizens and small businesses can do it too at our scale. Examples will follow soon.

You can save the world!


What have I learnt from my GRI training?

Juan Villamayor, our core consultant shares his views on the GRI training he attended in Barcelona.

This week I have attended a training on the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) in Barcelona. The GRI is the most extended standard for sustainability reporting. Although I still need to study and go deeper in this issue, my first conclusions are the following:

What have I learnt from my GRI training?.