How to Increase Awareness of Sustainability Issues in the Workplace

by David Harary

Over the least decade, businesses have increased the implementation of sustainability into the core functions of their operations and supply chain. One of the biggest challenges they face, however, is employee engagement with the entire triple bottom line — environmental, social, and economic value creation. By bolstering employee engagement through a bottom-up approach, businesses may be able to save money and reduce their impacts on the environment. This process starts with psychology.

No matter how large an organization is, employees will always have a biased perception of their firm based on their own personal interactions. With five senses, humans have evolved to process and filter a large amount of information in real time. Despite this, human’s selective attention towards particular moments and experiences often masks the truth. For example, if an employee works over 40 hours per week on one or a few tasks, that employee will soon become fully aware of the many issues and procedures for it. However, that same employee may not be aware of the larger production processes going on elsewhere. By familiarizing theirselves with only a few pieces of the puzzle, employees are unable to recognize the broader impacts the business may have on the environment and society at-large. Implementation of more effective and sustainable options therefore becomes impossible.

In order to broaden the knowledge and awareness of the realities in an organization, managers can use a variety of techniques to engage employees. By allowing an employee to see first hand, or even work on projects outside of his/her typical purview, employees could become more in-tune with their surrounding environment. A direct result of these kinds of interactions would be the understanding of consequences produced out of day-to-day business operations. Furthermore, by seeing through the eyes of external stakeholders, employees could become motivated to change and innovate new methods of production. In this way, organizations can become more efficient, profitable, and responsible; simply through the provision of greater employee engagement with the entire firm.