In the mad rush to demonstrate to the outside world that “yes, we can” and yes, we also do, many companies seem to overlook what could, and should be their first sustainability quick win: internal procedures and employee engagement.
Demands on supply chain, and even clients, to abide by a set of rules that have not yet been integrated internally smacks of the type of greenwashing that should have stakeholders running for the hills. For sustainability strategies to be coherent and credible, they must not exist in isolation from the business, but be reflected throughout it, implemented in conjunction with company policy and processes. Equally, comprehensive and effective stakeholder consultation supports the roll out of an inclusive and relevant sustainability strategy. It is curious, therefore, that the internal employee stakeholder group is frequently overlooked.
Not only does respectful inclusion and treatment of employees directly impact the success of a business, but this group, that labours to achieve business targets and strategy objectives, adhere to company protocols and processes, and adapt to changing market conditions and scenarios, also have the potential to make or break the company reputation.
It is the employees, and their relationships with clients, suppliers, local government, contractors and local community, who are the true ambassadors of any company brand. Where employees do not feel aligned with or reflected in policies and objectives, they are unlikely to communicate a sustainability journey positively in their interactions with the many stakeholders. It is therefore integral that employees represent a focal point for any sustainability programme.
To develop an authentic approach towards running a responsible company that reflects your values and commitment, consider the following:
· Values : understand what these are for your business and ensure they are visible throughout all activities.
· Policies and Procedures: a recent survey to a select group of Event Management companies in Barcelona revealed that only fifty percent of those surveyed offer employees an onboarding procedure with welcome pack and materials relating to the business. A useful exercise is to consider the employee journey through your business and ask yourself if guiding policies and procedures are available at every step.
· Integrate sustainability: Businesses with effective sustainability programmes weave their values, objectives and achievements throughout their policies, procedures and communications where they support and consolidate responsible business. Imagine, for example, your hiring, travel, health and safety, finance and purchasing policies — how are your sustainability priorities reflected there?
· Engage your ambassadors: Consult with employees, give them a voice to contribute to business decisions and direction.
· Communicate sustainability plans and updates internally and regularly: Employees highly value the opportunity to support their companies to contribute to society. Ensure your goals are clear, and all colleagues are aware of how their roles can contribute. Do all Event Managers know about the ambitions and actions to sustain responsible procurement? Have Event Managers received any training on monitoring or measuring the impact of their events? Is there an internal process for communicating sustainability results and best practice to the comms team? Does everyone understand the impact of collaborating in areas such as recycling and turning off appliances at the end of the day?
Building a solid in-house foundation for sustainability will generate positive results for the business in the long term as well as ensure that employees feel empowered to communicate values, policy and results with confidence.
So keep walking that sustainability talk, but ensure that first step starts “at home.”