Sustainability success starts with employee engagement at all levels of your organization.
It’s stunning how quickly expectations can change.
A few years ago, for most organizations, ESG reports were mere “nice-to-haves”. Today, on the other hand, these disclosures are demanded—by investors, regulators, and increasingly, by consumers. The question for many companies now is how to drive a strong ESG strategy. They know that requests for these reports are coming and a plan is needed to both promote sustainability initiatives and boost their ESG scores.
There are multiple ways to go about this, but a great place to start is by creating a sustainability committee. Here, we’ll explain what this entails and we’ll offer a few ideas on how to leverage this in-house team to optimize the processes required for ESG reporting. Specifically, we’ll discuss the answers to these questions:
- What are the benefits of forming a sustainability committee?
- How can this committee drive employee engagement in sustainability initiatives?
- How can technology facilitate sustainability-program management and ESG reporting?
If you’re at the helm of a sustainability program and ready to take it to the next level, here’s a look at what you can do now to set your organization up for success.
Why Your Company Needs a Sustainability Committee
While most EHS professionals understand why it’s important to have a well-developed ESG strategy, the need for a sustainability committee may be less obvious. When a typical workday is already packed with meetings, why would anyone assume that gathering another group is a good idea?
The 3-part answer has everything to do with what this team can accomplish.
1) The most productive sustainability committees include dedicated resources (enthusiastic employees) from different departments.
This cross-functional team, with its variety of perspectives, represents your organization, and as it promotes and facilitates sustainability initiatives, it can ensure they’re always in the best interest of the business and its stakeholders – from customers to employees to investors.
2) A cross-functional sustainability committee can generate the intertwined benefits of increased innovation, collaboration, and the propensity for such committees to attract and retain talent.
When a diverse group of stakeholders gets together in one room, the ideas that they’ll generate (and inevitably refine) shouldn’t be underestimated. Furthermore, prospective hires want to work at companies where this culture is the norm. They expect sustainability to be a priority, and they expect to see teams that can get the job done.
3) Sustainability committees can drive cost savings, reduce your organization’s carbon footprint, and help you gain a competitive advantage through better market and brand recognition.
With a dedicated group focused on finding ways to cut energy use, for example, your organization will benefit from lower operating costs, not to mention potential gains from better risk management. And when it comes to spreading the word about your work? Just think about the fodder a productive sustainability committee might provide your organization’s marketing department.
Driving Employee Participation and Engagement
Creating a sustainability committee is one thing, but for this group to get results, it must have buy-in from the larger workforce.
One approach favored by an increasing number of companies involves following the recommendations outlined in a now often cited article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Among other things, the story’s authors noted, that there are four key steps organizations can take to drive employee participation and engagement.
- Define the long-term purpose of your sustainability initiatives: Why is sustainability important? How does it align with what’s good for the planet and society?
- Describe the economic case for sustainability: What is the financial value of changing how you operate to make your business more sustainable?
- Create sustainability knowledge and competence: It’s important to educate your workforce about their role in sustainability success. Where can they start? How can they get involved?
- Co-create sustainability practices with employees: Make employees part of the process by listening to (and funding) their ideas and defining what’s important to them. By incorporating their visions for a greater purpose into your organization’s vision, you’ll not only show them you value their input, but you’ll also encourage them to continue participating.
The Role of Technology in Sustainability-Program Management and Reporting
It takes dedicated people and relentless collaboration to make an organization more sustainable but finding the right reporting technology can elevate your ESG management and strategies even further. To drive efficiencies in program management and to facilitate everything from third-party auditing to data collection and report generation, most organizations rely on technologies designed specifically for these purposes.
The biggest advantage of deploying ESG technologies to further an organization’s sustainability goals is in how it can create a single source of truth for data from multiple systems. In the absence of such a tool, gathering data from across the enterprise can be a labor-intensive and error-prone process. But with the right software in place, you have the efficiencies that come with automation and the ability to turn that data into useful information.
ESG software can help an organization:
- Track and achieve its sustainability objectives: How much energy is your organization consuming, for example, and how does that consumption compare to previous months?
- Forecast the impact of sustainability initiatives: If you convert all your lighting to LEDs, or move from diesel trucks to a fleet of electric vehicles, what will that mean for your organization in the future?
- Comply with reporting standards and submittal requirements: With so many different standards to report against, automation greatly simplifies tracking their various requirements.
- Provide the “big picture” overview to top decision-makers: When executives, shareholders, and others want to know where you’re at with your sustainability initiatives, you can generate reports and illustrate your progress with data and easy-to-visualize charts and graphs.
In the end, living up to expectations means developing an ESG strategy that works for your organization and your employees. Creating a sustainability committee will help you put that strategy in motion, while technology will help you keep it on track.