Six growing trends in corporate sustainability

Trend 3: Employees emerge as a key stakeholder group for sustainability programs and reporting

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Employees can be cheerleaders of their company’s sustainability efforts.

Conventional wisdom is that company sustainability initiatives are driven principally by customers or investors and shareholders, and sometimes by NGO activist groups or regulatory agencies.

But our survey found that employees are a key driver in a significant number of companies.

When asked to rank the top three stakeholder groups in driving their company’s sustainability initiatives, employees ranked second (cited by 22% of respondents), behind customers (37%) and ahead of shareholders (15%), policymakers (7%) and NGOs (7%).

The practice of employee education and engagement on sustainability has spread rapidly and evolved into a more institutionalized element of companies’ broad sustainability strategies. Companies use a wide range of tools to engage employees on sustainability, including:

  • “Treasure hunts” to identify untapped opportunities to reduce waste and energy use
  • Encouraging employees to create personal sustainability plans or otherwise incorporate sustainability into their everyday lives
  • Earth Day fairs where organizations set up booths to engage and educate employees
  • Employee award and recognition programs that reward measurable environmental improvements or demonstration of best-in-class practices

While the tools and techniques for employee engagement vary widely, they enhance employee attraction and retention, improve operational efficiencies, strengthen customer relations, increase innovation and strengthen community ties.

Moreover, companies that distribute their sustainability reports broadly among employees find that they often share this information with their families, friends and neighbors, as well as with customers and suppliers.

Employees can become a powerful voice in support of company sustainability messages.

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