Sustainability has fast become a major focus in recent years as more and more businesses are trying to do their bit and preserve the environment. Learning and development (L&D) has the potential to be potent when leveraged correctly as leaders look to achieve true sustainability. Let us identify exactly how…
While the concept isn’t new, sustainability gained particular prominence after the United Nations’ 1987 Brundtland Commission Report – and has continued to become a priority for more and more businesses as time goes on.
In the 2022 Survey of Sustainability Report, it was found that 96% of G250 companies now report on sustainability or ESG matters. That’s the highest figure since reports began, which shows how important it’s become for global powerhouses around the world.
What is sustainability?
Before indulging in the benefits of being more sustainable and why it’s becoming more important than ever, let’s first identify what the concept is.
Sustainability can be defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” To put that into perspective, its core pillars essentially guide people and businesses on how to safeguard for the future by acting more sustainably in the here and now.
It provides guidance on how businesses can better protect the natural environment, along with ecological health and human life as we know it. Essentially, a sustainable strategy is a long-term vision which demonstrates what companies are doing to contribute towards global preservation.
Sustainability can be achieved through a variety of initiatives. Some organisations like Boxed Water are using eco-friendly packaging as part of their commitment, while others, including global logistics giants DPD, are investing in their ‘Clean, Green Delivery’ initiative to reduce their carbon footprint.
In case you weren’t aware, Olano is part of Nicholas Associates Group. This year, our Group have made a commitment to plant 4,000 climate-resilient trees across the UK as part of our commitment to restoring woodland nationally. Just in case you didn’t think we were practising what we preach!
How can L&D help you achieve sustainability?
As time ticks on, sustainability is becoming a major priority for more and more companies. But what has any of that got to do with L&D? Well, when harnessed properly, L&D is an exceptionally powerful tool. Here’s how business leaders can use it in order to meet their sustainability goals.
Use onboarding to build sustainability from the start
Every employee who starts with your business will need to complete an onboarding process. Here, they will receive the tools needed to do their job and an introduction to your company. That content is entirely dependent on you – take the opportunity to include a section dedicated to your sustainability commitment. Spending time developing an effective onboarding programme which educates new employees about how you are trying to be more sustainable is a great starting point.
Establish a culture of responsibility
L&D programmes can also be used to establish a culture of responsibility, for both new and existing employees. This would be increasingly effective in the modern era, with 75% of Gen Z stating they would want to work for an environmentally responsible company.
From this figure, it’s clear to see that the current younger generation not only wants to work for a company that is more responsible, but would also buy into sustainable strategies right from the start. Using an L&D programme to establish a culture of responsibility at an early stage is powerful when trying to gain employee engagement for your sustainable responsibilities. Take advantage of it.
Use eLearning to re-educate and instil change
Consider the benefits of different learning modalities, for existing employees who are already embedded in the business, or perhaps as part of a pre-learning in a blended training programme. When tailored correctly it is a very influential way of delivering content. Which can support you in reaching ultimate sustainability to a wider group of employees. As outlined in our 5 benefits of choosing bespoke eLearning blog, it leads to increased engagement and better information retention too.
You can harness this and create content educating employees about your commitment to sustainability to instil change within your business. Drawing on eLearning’s great strength to educate learners expertly and consistently, you can empower employees by giving them the tools needed to be able to help you reach your sustainability goals.
L&D can lead by example
While reducing carbon footprint is not the sole contributor to achieving sustainability, it’s one of the major factors. A study from the Open University found that on average, online courses consumed almost 90% less energy and reduced CO2 emissions by 85% per student compared to traditional campus-based university course.
Costs alleviated with online training include facility hire, travel fees and printed materials, along with the additional time and cost needed for a facilitator to deliver at a set venue. When committing to sustainability, choose digital learning where possible, either in the form of eLearning, virtual sessions or as part of a blended training programme, allows it to lead by example.
What are some of the key benefits of sustainability?
We’ve identified how L&D can be used as a tool to achieve sustainability, but what benefits can you expect to receive for being truly committed to transforming your business?
Reduce costs and become more profitable
As we’ve mentioned, online or virtual training costs considerably less than classroom or physical delivery, especially when your learners are located in different offices or sites nationally or globally. Pairing this with a workforce committed to more sustainable methods across your business will reduce costs substantially. Being digitally aware results in a more profitable organisation!
Sustainability can be used as a marketing tool for new business
As mentioned, sustainability is becoming a priority for more organisations, with those committed subsequently improving their reputation. What does a strongly-perceived and moral company brand lead to? The attraction of new customers, of course!
According to a 2020 study, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable or “environmentally friendly” products. That in itself shows how important commitments to sustainability have become, and the spoils are there to take.
Boost morale and productivity
With more and more people becoming environmentally aware themselves, companies who match their values with this are an attractive proposition. Employees will not only want to work for companies demonstrating good values, but feel more motivated to be a part of their collective effort as a result.
This leads to highly driven people which will see productivity levels rise, output is increased and profits soar! Who wouldn’t want that?
So, we’ve outlined how important a role L&D can play in helping you achieve true sustainability. After reading this, we hope you can take something away to implement within your organisation and put you one step closer to reaching a more sustainable business, having a long-lasting positive impact on your environment. We suppose all that’s left to say is good luck!