Posts tagged sustainability
An Easier Way to Report Your Organization’s Positive Impact

Fall is upon us and the leaves are changing, which means organizations are putting out their annual impact and sustainability reports. There’s an oft-used saying that sustainability is a journey, not a destination (search “sustainability is a journey” to see how popular it is). For years, this phrase has played out in reports and CEO letters around the world, lately, it’s accompanied by “we’ve made progress but there is more work to do.” These reports are supposed to be a celebration of accomplishments and hard work. Instead, we keep hearing, “we did something pretty good, but we’re trying to be humble, so don’t ridicule us about the stuff we struggle with.” It’s passive language that diminishes efforts and minimizes the impact of your organization. Here are a few tips to consider.

  1. Don’t be driven by fear of being criticized. In today’s transparent world, organizations who stand up for something risk criticism — but standing up is the only way to reap the rewards.

  2. Don’t compete for the sake of competing. This noncommittal language allows you to tout goals that don’t matter, or overstate small wins just so you can have a seat at the table. People see right through this.

  3. Celebrate. Every little bit counts and significant positive impact matters, you’ve earned it. And while you’re finding ways to do good, it’s ok that you could do more. We can all do more.

So what’s the right way to celebrate positive impact? For SMBs with limited resources and budgets, it’s smart to consider how you’re going to compete with larger scale organizations. Generally, it’s been about telling authentic stories around how you are limiting your impact. But increasingly, it’s about evolving the structure of your organization and its purpose to directly have a positive impact on the world. Here, SMBs actually have an advantage over large orgs.

Most successful SMBs were founded on a set of values and have already begun rallying their customers and employees around a core purpose. And when that purpose drives the organization’s business growth and positive impact, it’s far easier to quantify and celebrate it all.

Here are a few examples of successful organizations who minimized their need for complicated reporting by clearly tying their business to a positive impact and living that out through their day-to-day operations, eliminating the need for a report altogether:

  • The Real Co. only sells single-origin products. They provide clear transparency about what’s in the products you buy, while supporting local producers and simplifying customers’ decisions.

  • Dr. Bronner’s embraces a global society through its “All-One” vision. The company is growing more than ever, but its CEO pay is capped at 5x the lowest-paid worker. Dr. Bronner’s donates profits to social and environmental justice efforts.

  • New Belgium Brewing is a worker-owned company pushing leadership in sustainable brewing. It has also grown into the 4th largest craft brewer in the United States.

  • Beneficial State Bank in Oakland, CA directs 75% of their loan dollars to mission-aligned initiatives.

Looking to share progress on your sustainability journey, but don’t know how to define or articulate your purpose? Well, at least you know what you should spend valuable time figuring out.

Should Employees Play for Sustainability?

People play games for three billion hours a week.  Do you know what they are doing for the other few billion hours?  Working.

These two activities, it turns out, might not be as far apart as business leaders may think. For companies trying to influence behavior, gaming mechanics are today’s hot trend. Is putting some points on a leaderboard the trick helping marketers motivate consumers to behave as they wish?  Even though there is science behind the behavior and success to be found, game dynamics are a far cry from the silver bullet. Clear results from this trend are as hard to secure as the mayorship of the local diner. Foursquare, the trend’s poster child, is trying to distance the company from the concept. Not all companies can attach a game layer to their business plan, so what can game dynamics do for these companies on the path to sustainability?

Many businesses may be better suited to turn persuasive practices on themselves as a way to push forward internal sustainability goals. A TechCrunch post outlines a number of different gaming mechanics that are employed by SCVNGR, but at the core, gamification plays on people’s inner drives for psychological satisfaction. Tools like achievements, appointment dynamics and envy can ignite motivations and help people take action. What if companies jumped in to game dynamics, not for an external marketing program but as a means to motivate their internal workforce towards sustainability goals?

Zero waste, for instance, might be more easily achieved.  As an objective in sustainability departments across the world, one of the hardest facets of reaching zero waste is unifying the effort within the organization to motivate different departments and apathetic employees.  Game dynamics can be leveraged to inspire organizations step-by-step because, unlike performance bonuses that solely draw on employee motivations for money, game dynamics can draw on dozens of behavioral traits and drive behavior and focus them towards a shared company goal.

According to Adam Loving, “good gamification can amplify the intrinsic rewards of a particular behavior – to increase the feeling of fun, flow or accomplishment.”

Walmart has created My Sustainability Plan to help employees live better lives. Leveraging game dynamics to elevate social and wellness programs encourages participants to take a more energetic role in their health. They increase program involvement, driving benefits that serve the employee but also ripple through the company.  An increase in employee engagement will help businesses combat the $300 billion in productivity lost from disengaged employees unearthed by a Gallop study.

While the novelty of virtual rewards and badges can quickly wear off, engaging employees to game to achieve the sustainability initiatives and goals of their company has the opportunity to capture people and change behavior, increasing employee performance, retention and the bottom line.  For companies looking to engage their workforce in the sustainability journey, game dynamics may be just the win they are looking for. 

(originally published in 2012 & cross posted at Triple Pundit)