Why Sustainability Culture?

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Why Sustainability Culture?

When sustainability solutions are focused only on technical fixes, they miss one half of the equation of sustainability. This is because the sustainability path involves the collective behavior of all employees and the ability to find new solutions along the way, a corporate wide collaborative effort.

Organizational culture is the untapped resource in the sustainability equation.

Why? Because:

  • Many sustainability initiatives require changes in behavior for employees, clients and other stakeholders. The start of collective behavior change is culture change.
  • Many organizations stall in implementing sustainability initiatives after the first step – eliminating easy-to-fix inefficiencies. When a sustainability mind-set is part of an organization’s culture, employees see opportunities that may have been hidden.
  • Culture is where synergy lives: a collective effort drives top performance, pride and excellence.
  • When employees understand the rationale, their roles and the project, sustainability is a motivator. This builds pride and a strong sense of ownership and meaning.

Culture is the context in which behaviors are displayed and solutions found. Organizational cultures are based on shared assumptions that drive how things are done. Shared assumptions are often below the threshold of awareness – they are just self-evident truths that control “how things work around here”.

The term “employee engagement” is often used in the context of sustainability culture. What this means can range from “getting buy-in” through a communications plan to the full-scale involvement of all employees. At its best, employee engagement in sustainability is about pride, purpose and deep involvement, from engaging in sustainable behavior to inventing new processes that save money, delight stakeholders and reduce impact on the environment.

Integrating new ways into the organization requires full employee engagement. This is a top-down and bottom-up initiative. It involves strategic thinking and innovative experimentation, business case rationale, and inspired ideas from engaged employees. This full spectrum of input is required if nature’s knowledge is to get from strategic planning report into the cultural context of your organization.

A culture of sustainability emerges when there is a sense of “all hands on deck” and shared value across the organization to contribute in tangible ways to a sustainability vision.

“Where do we begin?” This was the big question facing us when we, The Colonnade Group, decided to formalize our corporate social responsibility activities.

After listening to our questions and aspirations, Hilary introduced us to a framework that suited our situation. Among other activities, she guided us through a benchmark analysis, led an all-employee session to generate ideas and helped us to evaluate and set objectives.


Her environmental knowledge ensured that our activities were meaningful and manageable; her experience in organizational change was instrumental in engaging employees. She was a strong partner who encouraged, guided, and gently prodded us to success.”

Lisa Courtney Lloyd, Vice President
The Colonnade Group

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