Lovewell’s logic: Engaging employees with sustainability

Debbie Lovewell Tuck Editor Employee BenefitsHow engaged are employees with your organisation’s sustainability strategy? What role do they have to play in helping to achieve targets?

Last week, we reported on Lego’s move to link a portion of its salaried employees’ bonus payments to annual emissions. Lego plans to expand this over time in order to achieve its aim of becoming a more sustainable business. According to the organisation’s chief sustainability officer, Lego believes all employees can play a part in helping it to achieve its goals of reducing emissions by 37% by 2032 and achieving net zero by 2050.

Many organisations now have clear long-term sustainability strategies in place. Engaging employees with their goals, therefore, is key to achieving these.

Of course, Lego is by no means the only employer to take steps to engage employees with its sustainability goals. Other high-profile examples include Marks and Spencer, which has long taken such an approach, launching its Plan A initiative in 2007. After becoming the first major retailer to become carbon neutral in its own operations in 2012, its multi-stakeholder approach is now focused on achieving net zero by 2039/2040. The retailer recognises that employees’ efforts are crucial to it achieving its aims, so offers a number of initiatives for staff to improve carbon literacy across the business, including an environmental footprint calculator, the appointment of carbon champions and a sustainability academy.

Employers that actively involve employees in a corporate sustainability strategy are likely to find doing so also has wider benefits for the organisation. Research has consistently demonstrated links between such a strategy and employee attraction, retention and engagement. A KPMG UK survey, published in January 2023, for example, found that nearly half (46%) of the 6,000 respondents said they want their employer to demonstrate a commitment to ESG. A fifth, meanwhile, had turned down a job offer because the organisation’s ESG commitments were not in line with their own values.

In addition, Deloitte’s 2023 CxO sustainability report, published in January 2023, found that respondents chose employee morale and wellbeing as one of the top benefits of their organisation’s sustainability efforts, alongside brand recognition and reputation, and customer satisfaction. The report also found that employee activism is driving increased action, with more than half of respondents saying employee pressure had led their organisation to increase sustainability actions over the past year.

This is echoed in research by Zest, published in April 2024, which found that half (51%) of the employees surveyed want to see their employer invest more in sustainability.

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So, with the focus on ESG and sustainability issues only likely to intensify, will we see more organisations taking action to link financial incentives to corporate sustainability goals?

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell