4 Minutes

How can sustainability help your employees?

One of the biggest challenges we face is our uncertain future.

Many will be thinking:

Will my employer be able to survive this crisis?

Is my job safe?

Can we pay our bills?

Are my loved ones safe?

When will we return to normal?

What is really happening to our planet?

How will this impact our organisation’s ability to continue supporting us?

Few would be surprised by a November 2020 report from Mind, the charity for better mental health, that more people have experienced a mental health crisis during the coronavirus pandemic than ever previously recorded.

There are many reasons that sustainability is a compelling commercial proposition for business today but perhaps the most over-whelming reason to embed sustainability is that it will bring hope. Hope for your teams that there is a positive future.

I have shared below 5 specific areas of sustainability measures which I believe could provide support for your teams.

1) Bringing the business together

Operating as a sustainable business has become an expectation of many employees. Many Generation Z and Millennials care passionately about the environment. Equally many of your employee groups care deeply about social issues. If your organisation can roll out a sustainability program, led from the top but placing the employee voice into the heart of the program, this will bring your teams together and help rebuild morale.

There are many businesses which have strong pledges to the environment as well place their employee at the heart of their culture. An organisation to look at here is Mindful Chef. Mindful Chef provide healthy food with no food waste with ethical and locally sourced ingredients.

Mindful Chef is a Certified B Corporation - these are businesses which meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose

2) Providing a manageable and practical career plan for women

Up until the start of 2020 progress of women and women of colour in the workplace has been slowly and steadily moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, Covid-19 has reversed some of the slow progress that had been made.

Due to COVID 19 and its consequences, more than 1 in 4 women are contemplating downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. Companies risk losing women in leadership—and future women leaders—and unwinding years of painstaking progress toward gender diversity.

The crisis also represents an opportunity. If companies make investments in building a more flexible and empathetic workplace, they can retain the employees most affected by today’s crises and nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential over the long term. (source McKinsey 2020)

A sustainable strategy to protect and support women in the workplace would make a tangible difference to their wellbeing and financial health of their families.

Only 18% of senior level partners at the top ten UK law firms are women (PwC Law Firms Survey 2018). Gowling WLG have introduced a Breakthrough Sponsorship Programme with a specific objective of supporting more females and BAME colleagues in their career development. They have since been recognised as one of the top places to work in the UK.

3) Community impact

Creating a plan to grow your impact on your local community through a combination of local spending and supporting social initiatives will bring an increased sense of belonging to those employees living in the community. Your employees will have the ability to connect you to areas of the community which would benefit from your support and vice-versa. Increased local spending will inject increased cash into the local economy which will help the local community to thrive creating a circular cash effect.

An organisation who makes fantastic impact here is the Timpsons Group. They support their communities by putting their front-line retail staff at the heart of their organisation and measure employee satisfaction by a Happy Index. They have created training academies in offenders to build skills ready for when they leave prison – creating roles for paroled offenders in their stores.

4) Awareness of issues and personal impact

To successfully embed sustainability into your business will require education around the need for change both the why and the practical elements that an individual can contribute. It will also bring a need to understand the concepts of stakeholder and long-term decision making.

This education will benefit your teams not only in their work career but also in their lives outside of work, contributing a ripple effect into the community which our society and planet really needs.

5) Financial, physical and mental wellbeing

A commitment from your organisation to pay employees, at a minimum, the recommended fair pay levels alongside other benefits such as healthy food vouchers, access to mental health programs, volunteering opportunities, profit share and sufficient training will benefit your teams enormously.

Forms Plus a print management company based in Cornwall wanted to retain knowledge and skills of their current staff and recognised that staff spent long hours in sedentary work, sitting and looking at the computers.  They introduced ‘Health Plus’ workplace health program including site visits by a physio and occupational health experts to talk about the importance of the musculoskeletal health. The workplace champion ‘Clare’, organised wellbeing events and activities and the team are encouraged to organise walks and take part in community sport games.

Employee wellbeing can directly improve the mental and physical health of the workforce, with general health being linked to levels of productivity. It is estimated that the cost of poor productivity connected to low staff health is 2 to 3 times higher than healthcare expenses, backing the claim that employee wellbeing should be the focus of every company. A healthier and happier workforce is a more productive workforce.

Transitioning a sustainable business may seem overwhelming.

At Profit Impact we believe that with a simple framework, teamwork, tangible and measurable goals great strides towards becoming a sustainable business can be taken.

Written by:
Sarah Whale, FCCA
Sarah is the founder of Profit Impact, which guides businesses to measure and grwo long-term positive social, environmental and financial impacts. Sarah has over 20 years experience as a senior financial professional as well as a qualified in Cambridge Institute Sustainability Leadership and B Corp Leader.