All across the world, people are grappling with the challenge posed by climate change. It’s here, it’s happening and expecting people to ‘focus on work’ when the planet is in jeopardy feels like denial.
We must accept that our brightest minds are very worried about major global issues. They want to belong to organisations where their day-to-day activities are making the world a better place.
Work isn't simply a place to earn money. Increasingly, for the people who work at my company, it's important that their working lives actually mean something. People want to feel their work is meaningful. They want to belong to organisations with the same values as theirs.
Sustainability is a great value to promote. Yes, it can be about reducing emissions, pollution and waste. But it can also be seen more broadly and include ensuring your business is managed in a sustainable way. For instance, it can mean staff are well looked after and don’t suffer stress or burn out.
Environmental, social, governance (ESG) is a term which every business leader and HR manager should know and understand. It’s about improving sustainability at all levels of a business, embedding good practices and long term thinking into the company.
To make sustainability happen in real life and to turn ESG into something real, it's vital to engage with employees. Here are the top five things employers should be considering to help make this happen:
- Share a vision
It's important to share with staff a vision of how your company is going to make a positive difference to the world. By doing this you will be impacting on how your staff think, feel and act in the workplace. Leadership, for me, is not simply about telling people what to do. It's more often about spelling out a vision and setting the tone. Within that context bright, brilliant and sustainable ideas will emerge.
- Use incentives and rewards
We tend to use bonuses as a way to encourage good work. We provide bonuses for sales and activities which boost the bottom line. But why can’t we also use incentives to encourage ESG and sustainable goals? We are starting to see this approach happen. We recently surveyed the sector we serve, 121 real estate and investment firms, and found that 43% ESG incentives for staff. Leaders should not just incentivise for the bottom line but also use rewards to encourage sustainable practices.
- Invest in ESG training for your team
Sustainability isn’t an easy subject. It’s about a lot more than just recycling. Therefore, ESG training is increasingly important. Ensuring there is training for employees to understand regulations and how to integrate sustainability into their working practices is essential. In our survey 62% of investment firms were running training programmes for staff on the subject of ESG and 83% were planning on upskilling relevant staff on ESG, and that’s very positive. Training boosts awareness and helps better practices become part of your company culture.
- Make your building a sustainable, healthy environment
The building you work in has a major impact on employee health. But human health is key to a building’s sustainability and, with issues such as COVID-19, mental health and wellbeing seen as paramount in today's working and living environments, it is rising up the agenda. Human health should be integral to investment decisions and, indeed, a top line consideration for companies in all industries. After all, every employee is impacted by the environment in which they work. For HR managers, it’s essential they consider the impact of human health and have data on which they can assess this area. Sadly, our survey showed 61% of investors do not, or are not able, to assess how the interior of a property impacts on human health.
- Prioritise diversity and inclusion
Diversity and inclusion are important for sustainability. Evora now has staff across the world with offices in the UK, Germany, Italy, Romania and India, and US expansion is next. I believe success depends on finding the right people, broadening a company’s outlook and thinking both ethically and globally. We need to think on a bigger scale and that means hiring people with a broad diversity of viewpoints and experience, being as inclusive as possible. Over the past 18 months, we’ve more than doubled our headcount, from 70 to 160, and I’m proud of how diverse the team has become. We recently partnered with the expert, data-driven equality, diversity and inclusion company In Diverse Company to enable us to grow even more sustainably
I’m also proud to say that I genuinely like the people I employ. We’ve spent so much time apart over the past two years. Spending more time with them in person has been great and enjoyment surely must be linked to sustainability, with the likelihood that our valued employees will stay with us for the long term.
Chris Bennett, pictured below, is co-founder and managing director of sustainability services company Evora Global