Five Ways to Embed Sustainability into a Company’s Core

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Five Ways to Embed Sustainability into a Company’s Core

by Carla Fantoni, VP of Communications for Tetra Pak U.S. & Canada
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Five Ways to Embed Sustainability into a Company’s Core via @CSRwire @TetraPak_USCan
Friday, July 3, 2015 - 8:00am


Originally appeared on CSRwire Talkback

Established companies like Walmart, Unilever, P&G, Coca Cola and PepsiCo are driving positive change in the food and beverage industry with aggressive environmental goals and sustainability priorities. But how are these large organizations able to reach such ambitious targets?  The process begins in house, and it starts by weaving sustainability into a corporation’s core values. At Tetra Pak, communication is the key ingredient for translating environmental sustainability into actionable business imperatives.  This involves aligning strategic agendas and key priorities across all functions while building momentum for change through information, understanding and engagement. The approach aims to develop sustainability champions--employees who will help push the company’s sustainability agenda forward.  The five considerations below are critical factors to develop champions while rallying the rest of the organization behind its sustainability vision.

5 Ways to Drive Sustainability into a Company’s Core

1. Establishing Credibility
Defining sustainability in the context of your business, products and supply chains.

An important success factor for embedding sustainability in a company’s core is the organization’s credibility behind its sustainability strategy. Therefore, we must ensure we stay true to who we are and align our sustainability priorities with our business reality.

Companies need to develop and implement a framework to identify the key social and environmental footprint of their supply chains. From those results, establish clear priorities by integrating the sustainability agenda into the core business strategy. This demonstrates commitment and accountability for the sustainability goals.

Commitment must be fostered at the Top

The CEO and the executive management team set the tone for the entire organization when talking about sustainability as a strategic business priority.  They encourage buy-in by translating sustainability initiatives into real business value in terms of cost, profitability and long-term growth. As leaders, they must convey the vision and walk the talk which is crucial to getting employees to follow their lead, to move plans forward and deliver on environmental goals.

2. Understanding Your Landscape
Exploring Your Audience

As in a typical stakeholder analysis, a mapping tool, like the one below, helps identify key departmental influencers and potential ambassadors—not to mention potential pockets of resistance.  This approach identifies challenges to overcome and shapes your messaging to answer the all-important question: “what’s in it for the me?”.  

  • Who – Who are the key players?
  • Power of Influence –How much power do they have to drive your sustainability agenda forward?
  • Support – Where do they stand on these issues (positive, neutral, resistant)?
  • Reaction – How are they expected to react to your sustainability objectives?
  • Impact – How will they be impacted by your strategy?
  • Concerns/Interests – What are their core interests/concerns?
  • What We Need – What is your desired outcome from them?

Stakeholder maps can identify which groups can be reached through mass communication and who would benefit from direct dialogue.

3. Carrying Dialogues
Speaking the language

It is widely recognized that change and adoption of new strategies will rarely succeed with the presentation of logical arguments or strong evidence alone. Open dialogues with key stakeholders can be a powerful tool to foster champions.

When carrying dialogues, it is important to recognize that a “one size fits all” approach may not achieve the desired outcome.  How you approach an R&D department may not be the same way you reach out to a business development team. The connection between long-term growth and corporate sustainability is more readily understood by employees when seen through each function’s unique corporate lens and explained in relation to their particular job function. That “ah-ha” moment is key to turning strategy into action.

Companies today realize that two-way communication is integral to building a healthy culture that spurs growth, innovation and empowerment.   Rather than forcing an agenda upon employees, we should encourage engagement and collaboration by maintaining an open channel of communication with employees. It is important that they have the opportunity to ask questions, provide comments or share ideas for finding sustainable solutions. This is especially important when the company’s sustainability agenda has an impact on their way of working.

4. Campaigning for Change
Rallying functions and employees around strategic priorities and the vision

Change campaigns are designed to reach the masses and rally employees around the company’s sustainability commitment and goals. They are a lengthier process requiring a great depth of determination, patience, development and creativity to keep the momentum going.  Sustainability objectives and desired outcomes should be communicated at every level to inspire and unite employees towards purpose-driven change.

5. Spreading the Word
Identifying spokespersons and communicating in every opportunity

In many instances our corporate sustainability stories are shared publicly before they reach our employees and this is a process that must change.  To completely realize a vision of creating a corporate culture of sustainability, it is the people behind the brand who make your vision come to life.  Being transparent and sharing the company’s progress is critical to maintaining a strong relationship between employees and executive leaders.  We should take every opportunity to spread the word about our sustainability commitment and progress, and deliver those messages through defined internal spokespeople, including the sustainability team as well as senior executives from other key departments.

Tetra Pak’s Moving to the Front Campaign
Last year, Tetra Pak started a movement called Moving to the Front, a campaign to raise awareness about resource scarcity and the challenges of meeting supply and demand – an issue impacting all businesses.  We wanted to drive a dialogue about the benefits of sustainable sourcing and using renewable materials to create products and packaging. Before this could happen, we needed to get our internal stakeholders on board to turn these plans into action which included getting support from top leadership, identifying key influencers and spokespeople, and bringing together our sales, marketing and supply chain management to discuss our objectives and their role in delivering a successful campaign. Throughout the process, they provided a unique point of view to enhance the campaign.  Today, we continue to push our agenda forward across our organization and within the food and beverage sector to stimulate change, innovation and progress towards environmental sustainability.

Keywords: Environment & Climate Change | Branding | Business & Trade | Carla Fantoni | Corporate Social Responsibility | Media & Communications | Moving to the front | Sustainable Enterprises | Tetra Pak | Values | business strategy