It’s sustainability month here at UNLEASH, and across our four main areas of content (HR tech, talent and recruitment, learning and skills, and future of work), we try, in places, to bring a patina of sustainability to the surface of our content.
It’s the United Nation’s COP26 conference at the moment in Glasgow, and even though the spotlight may be on our current environmental issues, the long term message could be this: Sustainability is not an issue confined to two weeks in Scotland following Leonardo di Caprio’s Instagram.
Sustainability is a long-term, company-wide business imperative.
It’s an issue that cuts across many departments of your organization. What’s your economic sustainability plan? That’ll be linked to your succession plan. What’s your D,E&I sustainability strategy? That has HR, leadership and culture implications.
In the UK there’s a soccer team called Forest Green Rovers, who are currently at the top of League Two, the fourth tier of English Football.
The players travel to matches in an electric bus. The matchday menu is fully vegan. There are plans to move to a new stadium – made completely of wood.
This has been the singular vision of an owner made real, who no doubt back in 2011 would have been thought of as somewhat eccentric, with his crazy vegan diet for his sports stars. That vision is now lived and breathed by all Forest Green Rovers employees.
It’s a testament to Vince’s obstinacy and belief that he knew it was the way forward, and ploughed on to realize his ideas. Most importantly, it shows that a slate of sustainable values aren’t an impediment to success; they’re part of the reason.
Vince has built not just a soccer team that’s thriving, but a culture too; a successful business that’s now the envy of its sporting peers, and organizations across the world. Environmental sustainability is economic sustainability.
The danger with such a success story is to be intimidated by its scale of ambition. It’s tempting to abandon your sustainability vision by viewing it through a lens of futility, but as with the climate itself, a little difference every day amounts to significant change. You may not notice it in the short term, but long term you will.
My suggestion runs counter to the speed with which climate activists will tell you changes need to be made – I get that. But small changes are better than no changes, and big changes can sometimes feel so abstractly large to the point of unachievable.
Think of it as adapting the agile methodology but for the climate crisis. Or, as world-famous jeans maker Hiut Denim would say, just do everything 1% better every day.
One day, global businesses won’t need to look to a sleepy Cotswolds town in the South West of England for inspiration. Hopefully, it’ll be all around us.
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