A company’s sustainability program helps ensure
its products, services, and operations have a positive impact on people and the
environment—from the raw materials it uses, practices at its suppliers’ sites,
modes of transportation, use by consumers, and eventual disposal. Today,
employees expect this of the companies they work for. Fifty percent of U.S.
employees say they will not work for a
that does not have strong sustainability commitments and seventy percent want an
opportunity to contribute to those commitments.
The priorities of the
corporate communications and sustainability departments are tightly connected.
Important priorities for communications—increasing employee engagement and
building loyalty—are advanced in companies that have strong sustainability
Studies show “a company with purpose” tops the list for engaging employees. Three quarters of U.S. employees say it is important for the company they work for to
share its sustainability goals and progress. The same number of employees feel their job is more fulfilling when they have opportunities to make a positive impact, and to actively participate by providing feedback, ideas, and solutions.
While communicating company progress on sustainability can enhance job satisfaction and productivity, it can also improve retention. Seventy percent of U.S. employees—and eighty percent of Millennials—say they would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to important issues.
“As employees integrate their work and
personal lives, they see coming to the office as much more than collecting a
paycheck.” Employees “want their employers to give them opportunities to make a
meaningful difference, whether that’s providing a platform
for supporting personal issues or being an active participant in their
company’s corporate responsibility efforts.”
It is important for the communications and
sustainability functions to recognize that they define “employee engagement”
differently. For communications and HR departments, it is a measure of employee
commitment and motivation to the company overall, while for sustainability
professionals it is a measure of employee participation in the sustainability
program. There is a growing body of evidence linking employee
type communications measures—with sustainability performance and overall
business results. At global equipment manufacturer Ingersoll Rand, employee actions on
sustainability correlate with direct improvements in overall employee
engagement. Using data to establish the connection led to a new working
relationship that leverages sustainability programs to support the goals of
communications and HR.
communicate sustainability commitments and invite employee participation,
established corporate communication channels are effective. Forty percent of
employees prefer to hear about opportunities to engage on sustainability from
their management, newsletters, or internal emails. Thirty percent say workplace
events are an important communication channel, and twenty percent prefer
A number of retail practices illustrate how the sustainability program supports the goals of the communications department:
"Employees want to do what they love, and inviting that into the workplace increases engagement. We have been able to do this and prove the value in terms of engagement scores by enhancing our volunteer Green Teams program as well as increasing opportunities for all employees to get involved in sustainability-related activities." G.Digby, Director, Ingersoll Rand
Communications professionals are often key participants in retail Sustainability Executive Councils, which draw on the capabilities, perspectives, and influence of EVPs and SVPs from merchandising, private brands, marketing, HR, legal, and others. With a seat at the table, communications professionals learn how the sustainability program can enhance engagement and loyalty. The Council benefits from communication's perspectives and insights on employee expectations which help shape the sustainability agenda.
and the CRC’s Retail Sustainability
Management Leadership Model
includes a specific dimension on corporate communications to enable retailers
to benchmark their activities:
Other resources for communications professionals include: