Embedding Sustainability

Embedding Sustainability

NBS and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility present a five-part framework to help businesses embed sustainability into their organizational culture.
NBS June 30, 2010

Best Practices from HR & Sustainability Experts

Many business leaders acknowledge that the true value of sustainability is realized only when it is embedded into their organizations’ cultures. Yet, business leaders lack a clear framework for systematically embedding sustainability into organizational culture.

Together with Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR), NBS hosted a one-day workshop with sustainability and HR executives. Participants exchanged their methods of integrating sustainability into corporate culture, discussing strategic planning, organizational structure, human resource management, sustainability reporting, and employee rewards and incentives.

Best practices that emerged from the workshop are presented here in a five-part framework. Sustainability and HR professionals are encouraged to map their own environmental initiatives against this framework, and to identify specific practices to help them further sustainability in their own organizations.

Framework: The Star Model

The Star Model, developed by Professor Jay Galbraith, is a framework outlining the five elements (Strategy, Structure, Processes, People, and Rewards) essential to changing the culture of an organization.

Our discussion focussed on these elements and how they factor into sustainability planning. The resulting report describes best practices for embedding sustainability in your firm's culture according to the five categories outlined in Galbraith's Star Model. 

Developing Your Action plan

Armed with the five categories of best practices, managers can create an action plan to mobilize staff and start embedding sustainability into organizational culture.

Learn from others.

Use the practices and examples in this report for benchmarking, suggestions, or inspiration.

Find your fit.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses across the five areas and prioritize your objectives and activities.

Understand the challenges.

Competing resource demands, the need to gain support at the executive level, and the tension between growth (of sales, revenues, etc) and sustainability may all represent hurdles within your organization.

Engage and collaborate to innovate.

Leverage the “grassroots” energy of the movement. Take advantage of opportunities for innovation and collaboration to meet your sustainability objectives.

Act now rather than later.

Don’t expect perfection the first time. Sometimes, “good” practices are good enough. Overcome any inertia and take the first steps you will learn along the way.

related Resources

Executive Report

Measure the value of sustainable business activities using the tools and framework of metrics in this introductory guide.

Systematic Review

Read the systematic review and synthesis of 159 studies spanning 30 years of research to discover the tools to value sustainable business activities.

Reports and Articles

The Embedding Sustainability Working Group was launched to provide companies with research and guidance on how to embed sustainability.  The Embedding...