Cultivating a Culture of Sustainability

Cultivating a Culture of Sustainability

Birgit Valmüür

18 years: Sustainability leadership

If you want to broaden the practice of sustainability in a business, you need to look at creating a sustainability culture. Join Birgit Valmüür as she explores how to, from the top-down and bottom-up as an individual, team and business unit.

If you want to broaden the practice of sustainability in a business, you need to look at creating a sustainability culture. Join Birgit Valmüür as she explores how to, from the top-down and bottom-up as an individual, team and business unit.

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Cultivating a Culture of Sustainability

15 mins 59 secs

Overview

Sustainability culture can be defined as doing things in a business in a way that positively impacts sustainability. You can create a sustainability culture from many angles - top-down and bottom-up from an individual, team and business-wide perspective. This will involve lots of talks and discussions with your colleagues, listening to concerns, teaching the hesitant and misunderstood and collaborating.

Key learning objectives:

  • Define sustainability culture

  • Outline how you can create a sustainability culture top-down

  • Identify how you can create a sustainability culture bottom-up

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Summary

What is sustainability culture? 

Sustainability culture can be defined as doing things in a business in a way that positively impacts sustainability. 

How can you create a sustainability culture top-down?

An effective top-down approach needs to consider the historic nature of the business, its recent changes, and current challenges. Companies should tap into their internal resources as it can be much more cost efficient than using external consultants. 

1. Create a sustainability-focused statement

2. Select a few of the UN SDGs to contribute towards goals that are aligned with the business processes

3. Make a climate pledge to set a long term greenhouse gas target

4. Monitor key metrics with targets linked with remuneration of employees to motivate

5. Distribute surveys among employees to collate ideas on sustainability improvements

How can you create a sustainability culture bottom-up as an individual?

1. Leverage your role

Reflect on how you can best do your job while incorporating sustainability. 

2. Learn

Become informed about the sustainability-related aspects of the specific work you do. 

3. Listen

Notice the sustainability concerns and ideas others are expressing. It is not unusual for people to underestimate the sustainability concerns of the people around them.

4. Lead

Suggest improvements when you need permissions to implement changes, or immediately build sustainability considerations into your work, if it is at your discretion. 

How can you create a sustainability culture as a team?

1. Talk

Talk to people about the sustainability opportunities you have noticed and sustainability subjects you are interested in contributing to. 

2. Teach

Share with others the sustainability insights that you have learned and tell them about the ways you have found to incorporate sustainability improvements into your own work. 

3. Team up

It can be beneficial to jointly pursue causes - not necessarily everyone in organisations shares a passion for sustainability so teaming up can also be helpful to win over those who are still hesitant.

How can you create a sustainability culture across business units?

1. Converse

Engage in two-way conversations with other teams, functions and levels to share your insights and suggestions. And enquire about their views, objections, questions, and seek to learn about their related challenges or concerns. 

2. Collaborate

Sustainability initiatives often get siloed - collaborating between teams and functions, already in the phase of envisioning changes, helps to build rapport as well as foresee and prevent challenges.

3. Co-create

Co-creating or jointly implementing sustainability improvements helps to share the sense of achievement and ownership across businesses and can ease future collaboration. Recurring co-creation helps to establish systematic improvements and solidify them.

How can you create a sustainability culture across the whole business?

1. Own

Decide internally to take responsibility, commit to it publicly, and hold yourself responsible for delivering on that decision. 

2. Orchestrate

Organise company-wide solutions to support sustainability innovation. Make sure you enable employees to contribute and permit them to do that. 

3. Oversee

Monitor to ensure that your employees are enabled and engaged to contribute. Measure and record progress, reward and praise good examples, and periodically review your practices.

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Birgit Valmüür

Birgit Valmüür

Birgit Vallmüür is the founder of TitanSwan, a sustainability leadership boutique consulting firm in London. She has advised listed and multinational companies and governments globally and has taught management and change management undergraduate, postgraduate, and executive education courses. This has given her first-hand and academic insight into both businesses and governments and convinced her that businesses can have a substantial impact.

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