A Framework for Embedding Sustainability into the Fabric of Your Firm

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Executive Report


Our team at NBS, with direction from the Leadership Council, reviewed 15 years of research and 179 studies to answer the question, "How can management build and support a culture of sustainability in their firm?"

The Network for Business Sustainability's Executive Report entitled "Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture: A How-to Guide for Executives" presents the most comprehensive and credible evidence to date on how to successfully weave sustainability into the corporate fabric.

Designed for executives, senior HR managers, and sustainability managers, the report presents a portfolio of practices — including those that the research has shown to be effective, and those that show potential but remain untested. We hope they will give management the tools necessary to incite organizational change towards a more sustainable business future.

Sustainability is Increasingly Important for Good Business

93 per cent of executives believe sustainability is an integral component of their company's future success. Yet many of them still lack a solid framework for implementing sustainability through all levels of their firm.

The Executive Report presents our Embedding Sustainability framework; it depicts the many ways that you as a manager can embed sustainability into day-to-day operations and strategies at every level of your organization. Each of the four main quadrants is broken into categories of practices, with each category further divided into individual tools for assessing sustainability.

Assessment Tool for Embedding Sustainability

Fostering Commitment: Informal Practices for Delivering on Sustainability Goals

Practices in this quadrant aim to build and reinforce the importance of sustainability for the organization, and to support and encourage employees who are making efforts to embed sustainability.

Clarifying Expectations: Formal Practices for Delivering on Sustainability Goals

Practices in this quadrant involve establishing rules and procedures, with the goal of clarifying employee expectations regarding sustainability. These practices aim to:

  • integrate sustainability into the core of the organization’s strategies and processes;
  • equip and encourage employees via training and incentives; and
  • measure, track, and report on the organization’s progress.

Building Momentum for Change: Informal Practices for Innovation

Practices in this quadrant aim to support a culture of sustainable innovation by developing new ideas needed to bring your organization closer to its long term sustainability goals. These practices inspire and reassure employees so that they can experiment, try new things, and build on each other’s ideas. The categories in this quadrant are: awareness raising; championing; inviting; experimenting; re-envisioning; and sharing

Instilling Capacity for Change: Formal Practices for Innovation

Practices in this quadrant aim to create structures or supports that will form a foundation for future changes in the organization. They represent rules and procedures that lead to innovation. The categories in the quadrant are learning and developing.

Canadian Success Stories

Read the full report for examples of real Canadian firms who discovered how to build sustainability into their core culture:

  • Tembec, a forest products company, realized benefits for its employees through external engagement and partnership activities. This has helped to embed sustainability in a company founded on strong social values.
  • Teck, a mining company, has created a cross-functional working group to develop its sustainability vision, strategy and action plan. This has resulted in an active, company-wide engagement in sustainability.
  • Canadian Pacific, a logistics and shipping company, implemented a campaign to reduce the use of bottled water and educate employees about broader sustainability issues.
  • Suncor, an integrated energy company, wanted to ensure they were consistently meeting their environmental commitments at various facilities; adopting one company-wide approach was critical for defining the new culture of sustainability.

Who Should Read The Report

Executives, senior HR managers, and senior sustainability professionals with a vested interest in having sustainability be a moving part of their organization's success.

Additional Resources