Involving employees in the sustainability transition is a strategic move. It increases the chances of success and, conversely, it also has a positive effect on the employees themselves. Spaepen: “It results in greater involvement among employees, relationships improve and this ultimately leads to less staff turnover. It also motivates employees to take action themselves and to support the actions of your company.” In addition, employees are increasingly looking for meaning. A sustainable policy can provide an answer to the demand for meaningful work. “More and more people prefer to work for organizations with a social message. This can be important to retain your current employees, but can also be important in new job applications.”
Communication also plays an important role in this story. “Sharing numbers and success stories is a great way to keep employees’ passion and inspiration warm,” Wynants states. “Whether that’s an increase in sales of sustainable products, a decrease in energy consumption, a new technology developed or a sustainable partner recruited. Rewarding behavioral change positively can also give people a boost. As a manager, you can be a good example for the rest of the team in this regard.” So making visible the sustainability efforts you take as a company certainly makes sense. It is tangible evidence that provides positive confirmation that you are on the right track as a company.
Indirectly, employee engagement also creates more satisfied customers. After all, engaged employees have a positive influence on customers and their opinion of the company. Spaepen: “A simple example: imagine that a sales employee in the store has no idea which sustainable steps you are taking as a brand. Then that person won’t be able to answer any questions from customers about it either. A missed opportunity. Good external communication can therefore be crucial in the customer’s perception of your company’s values. Store employees do not work at the head office, but they are in close contact with the end customer and know what they are looking for. They can therefore provide good feedback, for example what effect sustainable efforts have on buying behavior. That, too, strengthens commitment.”
Sustainability and climate change are not intrinsic drivers for many consumers to make a purchase. “Translate this, however, into convenience, luxury and life extension of products, and it is suddenly an appealing story. Behavior change should be fun and have a positive outcome,” Spaepen says. “At Thomas More, separate from this project, we also do research on sustainability communication. Marketing and sales departments are used to focusing on sales and conversion. But how does the sustainability story get a place? Which concepts are important, and how can you tailor the communication to the target group and ensure that the message is effective? All of this listens very closely, it really is an art to do it well – and for that very reason worth investigating.”