Why Organizational Learning Is Key to Creating True Sustainability

Published on Aug 3, 2023

Creating a strong culture of sustainability within your organization requires a concentrated effort to ensure all employees are well educated on the topic. Just as a holistic approach is needed to foster a strong and healthy safety culture, sustainability becomes a natural part of any organization when it is embedded across all levels of the organization, from upper management to the factory floor.

To do that requires making sustainability an important part of corporate learning, whether onboarding new workers or upskilling existing workers.

Key to fostering engagement around sustainability is making your organization understand why it matters. Namely, sustainability helps organizations stay and remain compliant, reduce waste and costs, enhance their corporate reputation and brand, grow their business value and impact, and ultimately protect workers, the environment, and communities. Giving all stakeholders - from top managers to frontline workers - a shared purpose and understanding around sustainability will naturally make it easier to implement.

Driving Cultural Change

Doing the work to integrate sustainability into an organization is challenging. It involves upskilling workers, changing mindsets, and finding compelling ways to make it a part of every component of the organization, from its business practices and strategies to production and distribution processes.

According to the dss+ white paper, “From Intent to Impact: Enabling the Sustainability Transformation Through Capabilities and Culture,” the essential and often overlooked foundation of such a transformational change is often the realization that such a deepseated shift will require changing culture and behavior, or in a more colloquial term, winning hearts and minds.

To do so means working with employees to get them not just excited for this shift, but also committed to it. They will need to understand how they contribute to corporate sustainability efforts and why it matters.

A Strategy to Successful Learning

Learning is most effective when employees see how it can improve their day-to-day activities. It must feel relevant to them. Successful training around sustainability requires making sure:

  • Learning takes place over time. One-shot learning is not enough because, to workers, it will feel like a checklist and not something to take seriously. However, scheduling repeated learning sessions around sustainability on a routine schedule will make employees appreciate its cultural value, which will ultimately make its new practices and procedures stick.
  • Learning applies to real work. Rather than promoting theories about why sustainability matters, learning needs to be relevant to the organization, its industry, and even specific roles. Otherwise, workers will not allow it to take root.
  • Learning is reinforced. Workers will become motivated, engaged, and even empowered if they see it supported by managers. Otherwise, the messages will not be taken seriously. Management needs to continuously engage workers around the messages, so they understand the transformation is companywide and not relegated to their particular pocket of the organization.

Contact dss+ for more information. Learn about our Sustainability 101 eLearning course that is specifically designed to help employees understand how sustainability and ESG drive value, and what they can do individually to help meet sustainability goals.

Sustainability 101 is for workers of all levels, across all industries and can be incorporated into any organization’s sustainability transformation initiative.