Photo by Signe Valentin-Andersen

Sustainability is undeniably a hot topic in the workplace right now. In fact, “hot” would be an understatement. Employees are seeking proof that employers are adopting a green working culture and embracing CSR efforts. Sustainability can no longer be compromised, it needs to become a long-term consideration if companies are to succeed.

The Deloitte 2022 CxO Sustainability Report showed that 97% of companies have felt the impact of climate change on their business, including; operational and supply chain disruptions, regulatory uncertainty, and increased employee anxiety. A harsh reminder of the dramatic shift and immediate action needed on the way we treat our planet.

Stakeholders, employees and customers are applying more pressure on company leaders to drive meaningful change around sustainability. With expectations that companies are to, not only offset their footprint, but also to empower their workforce to embrace an eco-conscious culture.

World Environment Day, held annually on 5th June, is a campaign that calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale. To help bring attention to the #OnlyOneEarth campaign, we spoke with four HR experts. We asked them two questions to find out how they’re building a purpose-driven, sustainability focused culture. 

  1. How do you create a purpose-driven culture focused on sustainability and what challenges have you experienced?
  2. How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?

Marcus Brosjö

Marcus is the Global Head of Culture and Comms at Svea Solar, based in Stockholm, Sweden. He has an immense passion for people and behavior, and strongly believes that a happy and engaged workforce will only increase our positive impact on the planet. Marcus is on a mission to run hyper growth operations across their many markets, with ‘people sustainability’ at the forefront of this work. 

1. How do you create a purpose-driven culture focused on sustainability and what challenges have you experienced? 

At Svea Solar, sustainability is not something we do on the side of things - it is our core business. It is the reason we were founded, it is embedded in our vision and mission, aligned in the executive team and it is what keeps our CEO up at night, for sure. Without this foundation it is difficult to create a genuinely purpose-driven culture no matter your purpose. I’d even like to add that if you don’t have a clear purpose that’s ok too, just don’t pretend like you do - people have become increasingly good at spotting a fake and keeping up a purpose facade is exceedingly difficult in the long run. 

Corporate values are a very nifty tool to drive behaviors across an organization and as we redid our values last year, we involved all our employees in the process. It was clear that sustainability is close to everyone's heart, and this gave birth to our value “Work Sustainably”. Herein lies the challenge we are working to solve:  Sustainability is a complex yet fluffy subject and saying, “Work Sustainably” to a colleague will leave them wanting to ask follow-up questions like “Sustainably in the long-run or short-run?”, “Sustainably at the expense of what?”, “How do I measure sustainability”? Our Head of Sustainability could answer these questions in a heartbeat, but we want to empower all employees to make sustainable decisions seamlessly, every day, and that is quite a pickle. For now, we’ve settled on clarifying this value by letting it roughly circle around reducing negative impact on the planet and creating solutions that stand the test of time. Although this is vastly simplified it helps our employees to act and not over-think, but this needs improvement for sure. 

 

2. How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?  

One way in which we keep this purpose top of mind is to take every opportunity to talk about it. We call it “leading the Power Shift” and it is the first topic we mention in all our main communication channels both internally and externally. We do this to display its importance and since culture is a top-down matter, our employees (we call ourselves “Power Shifters”, which also helps) tend to follow this lead. This also helps us attract and recruit people that share our passion for sustainability.  

Creating a culture is not just about written and oral communication, it is also about setting structures throughout our business that rewards the right behaviors, makes it easy and fun to do the right thing and even difficult to do the wrong thing. Since sustainability is our core business and is the heart of everything we do it doesn’t really take much effort. Kind of like breathing. 

 

Thomas Møller Lybæk

Thomas is the Process Innovation Director at Lego. He’s accrued experience in international business and project and change management from Vestas Wind Systems, Valtech, Grundfos, Kunde & Co and IBM. Thomas also advises Executives on leadership, strategy, team and organizational development.

1. How do you create a purpose-driven culture focused on sustainability and what challenges have you experienced? 

The LEGO Group, founded in 1932 is 4th generation family owned with active ownership involvement in shaping and influencing company values and beliefs. “As a family and owners of the LEGO® brand we fundamentally believe that “Children are our role models”. Children are curious, creative and imaginative. They embrace discovery and wonder. They have a natural hands-on, minds-on approach to learning. These are precious qualities that must be nurtured and stimulated throughout life. As a family we want our enterprises “To inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. This is our purpose!

From the purpose and fundamental beliefs a number of promises are derived to earn us the right to engage: with children, parents, teachers, administrators, our employees and external partners and stakeholders. They guide the LEGO Group and employees through options and choices and make sure we do what is right for the long run in order to continue to build trust in the LEGO brand and in our enterprises. These promises are: Play Promise: Joy of Building / Pride of Creation, Partner Promise: Mutual value creation, Planet Promise: Positive impact and People Promise: Succeed together.

From surveys and analysis we know, that new colleagues join the LEGO Group from a desire to be part of this history and purpose. Moreover, in our engagement analysis with existing employees, the understanding, relevance, and “buy-in” of the company purpose continues to be high. Hence in many respects, the LEGO Group does not have a challenge in establishing a purpose but to keep it alive and making it relevant, especially in times with high-growth, many new joiners and expanding global footprint, which is done through actively storytelling internally and in the subtle nudging in how our working routines, facilities and active owner family involvement evolves. Play is fundamental to all employees and part of our everyday lives at the LEGO Group through onboarding activities, yearly Play Day, ongoing experimentation in our work and the casual building or play experiences.

 In the sustainability light, a short context must be set. At the LEGO Group, we’re committed to sustainability from three perspectives; 1) Children: Lead the effort for all children to develop and apply the breath of skills to improve life, planet and society, 2) Environment: Leave a positive environmental footprint by promoting a business model where products never become waste, and 3) People: Build fair, equitable and responsible workplaces – ours and our suppliers.

 

2. How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?

Ample opportunities for employees to participate and engage are provided. Not just directly in their line of work, whether it be in our drive to reduce plastics in our product and packaging, digital safety and wellbeing, reduce the carbon footprint across our supply chain by optimizing transport and production introducing “green” energy, better building etc. or in our volunteer Local Community Efforts or Ambassador programs where employees are encouraged to and do take time to engage in play activities with children – reaching more children and parents through learning through play initiatives or as colleague-to-colleague efforts in resource networks improving our diversity and inclusion and lately in our response to hybrid work.

It’s the small things like sorting your trash in the office, inviting your new colleague from another country out, being respectful as individual and in teams, remembering to turn-off lights when not done automatically to giving it an extra thought if you really need to travel or which to providing more choices in our company car fleet and enabling the green choice. I don’t say that my effort and that of my colleagues merely comes naturally but it still sort of does as the opportunities are easy to grasp by design and thus easy to utilize without giving much thought. This approach has definitely taken much thought, effort and dedication from the owner family, through leaders to my colleagues working on making the options available – consciously or through more subtle nudging.

I feel humble to be working for a company and with colleagues who share a clear purpose and where it is actually possible to make positive sustainability impact. If you’re interested in knowing more about what we do, then check out the latest Sustainability progress report.

Valerie Wiederkehr-Prundianu

Valerie is VP of People at Resourcify. She is based in Vienna, Austria but is focused on a remote first approach for all employees, she has a clear vision and passion for a greener future. Resourcify is on a mission to enable a zero-waste future. Their recycling platform enables all businesses to manage, track and improve recycling while having less administration.

1. How do you create a purpose-driven culture focused on sustainability and what challenges have you experienced?

We put a lot of thought, care and 💚 into our hiring process. We are super fortunate to receive lots of applications from people who are excited by our green mission and bring this energy to Resourcify from day one. With every new joiner, the culture changes a bit and so it’s really important to us to bring on people who add to our culture and share our values. This is a huge challenge, since we want to deliver a great candidate experience, while getting to know our candidates really well and making sure this move is the right step for both sides. 

2. How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?

We try to act as sustainably as possible by, for instance, buying most of our office equipment locally and secondhand, refurbishing electronics through refurbed.com, and giving gift cards for experiences rather than material goods for birthdays and anniversaries. We also opt for train journeys over flights, but generally limit our trips as we’re a remote-first company (with a beautiful (secondhand-furnished) office in Hamburg). 

Janice Berneman

Janice is the People and Culture Manager over at Monta, the platform for EV charging. Based in Copenhagen, Janice is responsible for building a team that’s aligned with Monta’s mission to lay the ground and build the future for a scalable and sustainable EV infrastructure.

1. How do you create a purpose-driven culture focused on sustainability and what challenges have you experienced?

I was fortunate that when I joined Monta we were very few people, and both our investors and founders were from the get-go, very focused and determined to be sustainable in every possible way. They supported every initiative, from plant-based catering to organic and fair-trade merchandise, and even using bamboo toilet paper. 😊

Nowadays, we are offsetting 16 tons of CO2 per every one of our employees. Everyone we hire gets excited about our values and sustainable culture, and by being aligned from the beginning in terms of what matters to the company and to every individual, keeping this company as sustainable as possible, has been easy.

The way that Monta’s culture has evolved in regards to sustainability is that lots of our Monteers (our employees) volunteered to take it to the next level. Many people across our offices took a look internally at how we can do better as a company and what new projects we could start. It feels like an amazing snowball effect - people get excited and enjoy being at Monta because we not only say we care, but we also put action into our words, and they bring more great ideas into the table.

  

2. How are you engaging your employees in your sustainability efforts?

We have a climate Slack channel where Monteers engage with good news for the environment, and a monthly climate “menu” where we share recommendations on food, tips, books, or even documentaries.

We also now are having several new initiatives from planting flowers to attract bees, and reducing food waste, to university students (Lund University & the University of Virginia) coming to analyze our sustainability efforts and how we can improve. They are also always welcome to share their ideas or questions, and we make information about all our projects available to the whole company.

If you'd like help in understanding and managing your culture then book a chat with our friendly team.

Written by
Claire
Stone
Content Specialist
at

Get insights and analyses on managing with culture. Subscribe to our newsletter.