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How to Create a Culture of Sustainability


Between the UN’s latest data on global warming — which gives us fewer than 20 years to make a radical change in global emissions or risk catastrophic damage to the planet — and the potential money saved by enacting more sustainable policies, there’s a lot of incentive to implement green initiatives that meet the needs of today’s businesses as well as the needs of future businesses.

Sustainablity starts at the foundation of companies, their cultures.

Understanding Sustainability Culture

Let’s start with understanding the broader definition of workplace culture: the environment provided for employees. It’s made up of the thoughts and beliefs shared throughout an organization, and it is affected by the actions taken throughout the company. Therefore, a culture of sustainability is an environment that places importance on sustainable practices.

How to Create a Culture of Sustainability

It’s rather involved to entirely change the way an entire company thinks, feels, decides, and acts. The obstacles may seem insurmountable, but this long journey can be taken in stride. Here are some steps companies can take.

Believe Sustainability Is Necessary

It’s crucial that people at all levels of an organization are aware of the importance of sustainability efforts. They need to know intellectually why changes are being made in order to emotionally adopt and potentially even become champions for sustainable policies.

As part of this, it’s important to recognize that sustainability can help the business’s bottom line. It’s got to be viewed as critical to success.

Make a Plan

The first step is a big one, but it’s important to be proactive. You’ve obviously got to create a plan to improve sustainability efforts. The plan will ideally involve injecting sustainability as a main consideration in all decision-making endeavors throughout the organization. Let employees in on clear-cut goals for sustainability, how you’re going to measure success, and how you plan to incentivize that success.

The plan should not be preachy and should allow room for personal choice. Forcing sustainability-minded policies won’t help people truly take on the cause. It can help with employee adoption to get them involved in creating the sustainability plan.

Stick to the Plan

Making a plan is one thing. Sticking to it is another. The organization and its leadership must practice what they preach — except don’t actually preach, remember? — unfailingly. You can’t set aside the importance of sustainability when it becomes inconvenient; it must remain a priority. Even when it doesn’t seem to be working, you’ve got to stick to it. It can take time for these things to gain traction.

Make It Personal

Don’t be afraid to develop sustainability goals that are on a more personal level. Incentivize sustainable actions in employees’ personal lives like carpooling, recycling, and relying on green energy alternatives. If you can get employees excited about doing the right thing for the planet in their personal lives, you can bet that they’ll make more effort to uphold those principles at work, as well.

Be Realistic

You’ve got to get real about both the imperative nature of sustainability and what your efforts really mean for it. Be sure that it’s known throughout the organization how climate change can impact the company and our world if action isn’t taken to mitigate it. Make sure that you’re not overinflating your efforts to be more sustainable in order to look or feel better about your program.

Go for Gold

Reticence won’t get employees on board and dedicated to sustainability. You’ve got to go for it in order to show employees that you mean business. Take on sustainability efforts, even when they seem big and scary. It’s necessary to make employees feel responsible and empowered. They need to believe that they can truly make a difference.


This article was originally published on

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