Sustainability makes you happy

When attempting to communicate sustainability to their own employees, many companies use messages akin to:

“It will make us look good”
“It will make us more competitive”

The right thing to do is a powerful intrinsic motivator – most people care about environment and social issues at some level – even if those concerns are expressed in different ways. The challenge is how to let those attitudes flourish in the workplace.

A couple of years ago I interviewed an executive of a global media company as part of a review of their environmental strategy. The question I had asked was “Why had they hired a consultant to address their sustainability issues now?” I expected an answer relating to the expectations of their viewers and shareholders and reducing risks. I was somewhat surprised that her answer was “Because it’s the right thing to do: I saw Ellen MacArthur speak about the Circular Economy and it was so inspiring!”

Studies by psychologists have shown that where people engage in environmentally responsible behaviour (such as saving energy, using public transport, involvement in voluntary programmes) this led to an increase in subjective wellbeing – an attempt to measure that elusive concept ‘happiness’.

This in turn leads to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

The lesson for employee engagement? Linking the ethical message this is the right thing to do with the happiness message it will make you feel good can form the basis of an effective communications strategy!

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