Culture & Behaviour
Practitioner’s Guide – Integrating environment and sustainability into organisational culture
In this article, we draw upon our experience to provide our fellow Safety, Health and Environmental Practitioners with practical guidance of how they can achieve integration of environment and sustainability into their existing organisational culture.
By David Day, Head of SHE, Nuvia & Dan Morphew, SHE Manager, Nuvia.
(Note: The assumption has been made that your organisation’s senior management are bought into this process and wish to make this change.)
Assessing the organisational culture for environment and sustainability
Before you set off attempting improve your organisational culture, you need to understand where you culture is. It is often recommended that the best way to understand your culture is to do a culture assessment. There are various ways that this can be done, but based on our experience, there are two main methods: developing your own culture assessment tool (CAT) or using a readymade measure.
If you are going develop your own culture assessment tool, you need to:
Clearly define your terms – You need have clarity on what you are investigating in your CAT. What do you mean by ‘environment and sustainability’?
Whilst sustainability often means different things to different people, and we won’t dwell too much on the definition here, but to a layman (like us!), sustainability is all about operating a business in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible way
Research the cultural aspects that you are assessing – You need to focus on the key environment and sustainability culture aspects that are significant to your business. There is no point in wasting your time assessing aspects that do not apply to your organisation.
Develop an instrument from the cultural aspects – This can be achieved by using an existing culture framework, or simply making statements out of the cultural elements and accompanying them with a Likert Scale, which allow people to grade their perceptions.
Then validate the instrument with employees in your business – You will need to ask your colleagues: Is this CAT measuring what people think about environment and sustainability. Get your employees to give you feedback on you CAT; this will lead to improved quality. The best people to give you feedback are the ones who will be completing the tool.
If this method is not for you then you could use a readymade measure.
Select a tool that suits the needs of our business. Ensure the tool matches the geographical and cross-cultural nuances of your business. Also, have a think about how you wish to present your findings and how you will be integrating these into your improvement plan. Don’t forget it needs to be user-friendly and simple to complete, which will increase your response rate.
User-friendly frameworks can be used to assess an organisation’s environment and sustainability culture. A great example is Bioregional’s One Planet Living Framework (1), comprised of ten principles of sustainability, which provide a holistic approach for organisations to understand how to live within the limits of our planet.
Integrate environment and sustainability into your business planning processes
Any good environment and sustainability policy should provide a framework for improvement, which makes it the perfect method to get improvement at an organisational level. You can do this by extending your policy to include environment and sustainability as a corporate objective.
Assess the areas for change and identify some high level KPIs that your Business Managers can contribute toward. Sit down with your colleagues, during the planning process, and help them to make sense of how they can contribute towards improving the culture of the business.
As awareness increases, you can set more elaborate objectives.
Integrating environment and sustainability into existing risk assessment processes
Take the risk assessment processes that people use and extend them into environment and sustainability. Take the definitions of hazards and risks and ensure they include environment and sustainability phrases. This will ensure that people are thinking about the environment and sustainability risks related to their work. Furthermore, as you are building on pre-existing processes, people will not have to work in a different way.
Integrate into existing communication processes
Whilst you may feel that this is the easiest to achieve, it’s probably the most important. You need to find the communication method that reaches the largest audience. However, not everyone reads every email or newsletter; try different methods. Be inventive – use all the communication methods at your disposal. Visual: screensavers, emails, messages of the day, etc.; verbal: toolbox talks, staff briefings, training sessions, inductions etc.; and written: posters, notice boards, risk assessments and notice letters. As the adage goes: “sell, sell, sell!”
What we have given you here are just a few ideas – use the methods that best suit your organisation. But, hopefully, we have given you some ideas to help you make a change to your organisational culture – good luck!
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