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Sustainability Leadership: Three Ways to Establish a Strong Sustainability Culture

In today’s ever-competitive market, companies exert efforts to ensure optimal productivity and efficiency in their operations. This should be reflected in how they improve business functions, handling of consumer complaints, and sustainability management, among others. To make this possible, companies implement quality management system standards, such as ISO 9001, to provide good quality products and services to consumers. Some might ask, “What is ISO 9001 certification?”┬áIt serves as the international standard that sets the criteria for a quality management system.

Companies with flexible and effective quality management systems put them in a better position to ensure higher customer satisfaction by producing products that are quality, safe, consistent, and sustainable. This is highly critical in today’s market, as consumers are demanding more sustainably produced products, particularly millennials and the Gen Z population. These eco-conscious consumers are now prioritizing brands whose products and services are both planet- and people-friendly. In fact, recent studies show that people are now willing to alter their purchase habits to minimize their impact on the environment.

Besides consumer demand, companies also have other reasons to embrace sustainability. These include obtaining excelling in government, social, and environmental performance to handle business risk, improve investor confidence, and contribute to the international environmental agenda. In this case, organizations are encouraged to establish sustainability objectives to address climate change. But attaining sustainable goals through a handful of sustainability practices isn’t enough. Today, the new framework is to embrace sustainability in all areas of your business. How companies can make this happen is something they need to explore.

Hiring process

The first stage of acquiring company talent is necessary for ensuring that the main aspects of sustainability leadership receive proper emphasis during hiring. During the applicant assessment, identifying specific characteristics of sustainability leadership will increase the possibility of hiring the best leaders that will drive the company objectives concerning the nurturing of sustainability skills.

To make this possible, the recruitment staff should be aware of the set of qualities they should look for when hiring potential sustainability leaders. This can be done through situational interviews and open-ended questions during candidate screening.

Test the candidate’s sustainability mindset or their ability to establish a bigger purpose and sustain their drive in relation to that purpose. The second criteria is the systems thinking or their intellectual capacity to think in a bigger picture. The last one is relationship building, or the individual’s ability and understanding of an inclusive and diverse environment. When it comes to the onboarding process, the function of the HR department should also include the company’s sustainability awareness, including its organizational practices, expectations, and values. This will help the hired candidate to have a better understanding of how the company truly values sustainability leadership.

Employee training

It’s worth noting that sustainability leadership should be viewed as a critical attribute that all business leaders should possess, not just a mere sustainability function. It’s a continuous process of upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling to inspire everyone to work towards the company’s sustainability goals. It’s also a great investment to encourage organizations to update their skill set and be prepared enough to incorporate it into their operations.

Ensuring that development strategies and employee learning address talent gaps is an effective method to help companies organize their skills development according to exchanges, training, secondments, or professional development schemes. At the same time, it’s also critical to assess the success of the training programs through yearly performance reviews.

Sustainability integration

Combining sustainability with daily business practices reveals the true importance of sustainability leadership, but it also poses a huge challenge.

Organizations should modify their daily business processes to incorporate a sustainability principle, which should begin with a strategy. Establish long-term objectives, targets, and objectives to achieve better business performance with sustainability in mind. For example, businesses that implement operational projects or improvements to lessen carbon emissions. Other examples of sustainability practices include replacing raw materials with recovered or recycled content, factoring production inputs with ethically sourced materials, and finding alternatives to raw materials. At the same time, these practices should also ensure quality standards and sustainable product packaging.

Developing specialized expertise to implement strategic transformations can be challenging for businesses. Some may have to sourced expertise externally in the beginning, but this should serve as their stepping stone to establish a skill set and knowledge within the company.

To successfully integrate sustainability, businesses should embrace sustainability into their operations in a manner that people feel they aren’t doing something beyond their work scope. When done well, this puts organizations in a better position where they are appreciated, recognized, and rewarded. It will also incur long-term implications in terms of their profitability, competitiveness, operational expenses, and stakeholder relation.

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