Why is Teamwide Sustainability Education Important?
As a team leader or sustainability professional, you’ve no doubt noticed the explosive rise of sustainability as a focus area for businesses.
From largely peripheral and reputation-focused activities, sustainability has transformed to become a key strategic concern for businesses.
But where do employees fit into this, and why does it matter?
The Context: Sustainability Transformations
We are in the beginning phases of a sustainability revolution, driven by stakeholder and regulatory pressure to address global threats like climate change. Sustainability continues to grow as a key consideration for investors, the public, corporate procurement teams, employees, and regulators, which is translating directly into markets.
To stay relevant in this new ‘sustainability economy’, businesses must take a strong position on sustainability. In a world of constrained resources and rising transparency, those that embed sustainability into their core and authentically deliver on commitments, are poised to win.
In fact, they’re already winning. A 2021 study by Accenture has found that companies with a stronger sustainability DNA achieve on average a 21% increase in both profit margin and environmental and societal impact. Similarly, a 2014 Harvard Business School Study found that ‘high sustainability firms’ are able to attract better human capital, establish more reliable supply chains, avoid costly controversies with nearby communities, and engage in more product and process innovations to stay competitive.
Responding to the stakeholder and competitive pressures outlined above, organisations around the world have begun to transform their policies, practices, and procedures around material sustainability topics.
Employees: a key pillar of sustainability success
In addition to ‘top-down’ corporate initiatives and resourcing, employees have an important and active role in achieving sustainability outcomes. This is because employees are at the front line of enacting policies, accepting and implementing changes, measuring performance, and providing innovative suggestions and solutions to practical operational problems and opportunities.
As well as being the eyes and ears of a business, employees are also representatives of the organisation’s values in the community. It is therefore essential for employees at all levels to understand their organisation’s sustainability agenda, why it’s important, and adopt it into their daily decisions and actions.
Unlocking Employee Participation
To truly embed sustainability into an organisation’s DNA, employees need to have the ability and motivation to contribute. This requires both a basic level of engagement with the organisation’s existing sustainability commitments, as well as a foundational level of sustainability knowledge and competence.
However, achieving firmwide sustainability engagement and competence is no easy feat. Sustainability teams, if they exist, are often under resourced and don’t have the time or training to run effective workforce educational and engagement campaigns; nor do they have the workplace-specific tools to reliably capture the data.
In fact, a 2014 GreenBiz & PwC report found that while sustainability education and communication was among the top 3 most critical factors to have in place for success, companies of all sizes cited a lack of time as a major hurdle.
Not only that, but employees are becoming more concerned about sustainability crises like climate change, and want to use their careers as a way to make a positive impact. A Fast Company survey found that 70% of millennials, a generation that will make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025, prioritise sustainability over other factors when determining the attractiveness of a job.
Providing them with an outlet to act on that concern, be involved with business sustainability initiatives, and connect to a larger purpose, is more important than ever.
Scaling Sustainability Knowledge and Outcomes
To help organisations to overcome these hurdles of scaling foundational sustainability competence in their employees and providing them with an outlet for action, we have created SeedCulture: a gamified sustainability education and engagement platform. Our digital tool leverages behavioural science to provide highly engaging, rewarding, and accessible sustainability education to employees, covering key sustainability concepts such as climate change and the circular economy.
As employees complete our short courses, they earn virtual trees – which we then plant on their behalf in real life. They also earn certificates of completion, which are unlocked upon successful quiz completion. This data is then captured and presented via a Team leader dashboard, displaying team progress and total trees planted.
As well as access to a growing library of mobile-friendly sustainability courses, teams can request tailored sustainability modules to make the content relevant to their agenda and initiatives. For example, they may want to create a highly engaging sustainability onboarding module for new team members. All the courses are action-oriented and designed to turn working knowledge into real-world positive outcomes.