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How To Embed Sustainability Into Corporate Culture: A Cheat Sheet

Ninety-three percent of CEOs see sustainability as important to their company’s future success, as found by a UN-Accenture study. But how does one embed sustainability into a company’s core culture? Dr. Stephanie Bertels of Simon Fraser University conducted one of the most extensive researches in this subject. Her findings in the 74-page report are distilled into a core framework diagram. This cheat sheet will guide you through the key points.

How to use the framework diagram? The framework has 4 quadrants. To effectively embed sustainability into your corporate culture, you should have initiatives in all 4 quadrants. See below for an explanation for each quadrant along with example initiatives. If you are starting from zero, plan for small initiatives in all 4 quadrants. If you are already executing your initiatives, check to see if they cover all 4 quadrants and analyze for any gap.

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1. Fostering Commitment (Informal-Fulfillment)—Deliver existing sustainability commitments by motivating employees to get involved.

  • Host internal workshops and competitions
  • Include sustainability messages and success stories in communications
  • Include sustainability messages in hiring and reward staff for sustainability contribution
  • Share progress widely across the organization

2. Clarifying Expectations (Formal-Fulfillment)—Develop structures and procedures to implement current sustainability commitments.

  • Set measurable sustainability goals at organization level, department levels, and personal levels
  • Incorporate sustainability into organization’s vision and strategy
  • Expand existing roles or create new roles for sustainability responsibilities
  • Train staff on sustainable business practices
  • Link compensation to sustainability performance

3. Building Momentum For Change (Informal-Innovation)—Develop new ideas and new practices for the road ahead.

  • Form cross-functional champions team to seek innovative ideas from all levels
  • Crowd-source from suppliers or customers for ideas and collaborations
  • Share best practices across internal groups and at external industry events and publications

4. Instilling Capacity For Change (Formal-Innovation)—Formalize learning and process development

  • Play an official role in industry conferences and policy development
  • Benchmark progress with industry peers
  • Incorporate sustainability deeply into business processes and systems, e.g. implement environmental management systems (EMS)
  • Design new products and services that achieve industry leading levels of sustainability performance

How do your sustainability initiatives fit in to the framework? Share with us by leaving a comment below. More details of the framework are available at this website.

Derek Wong is a Toronto based sustainability consultant. See contact info and more posts like this at Carbon49.com.

Derek Wong
Derek Wong is a Toronto based climate change and sustainability consultant. Contact him through his blog Carbon49.com.
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2 thoughts on “How To Embed Sustainability Into Corporate Culture: A Cheat Sheet

  1. Developing a corporate culture can be elusive as it is so often intangible. Corporate sustainability usually involves almost all departments in a company to take specific action, and therefore is a tangible way to get the entire company to converge on a common set of values. We have found that these initiatives help companies access a wellspring of energy and commitment that can propel the culture.

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