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Why Your Sustainability Strategy Can Be Pivotal to Employee Engagement


By Elisabeth Comere

The business case for implementing sustainable practices is clear, and regardless of what industry you’re in, the strain on natural resources is rising as a result of population growth and climate change.  Today, many companies are shifting to a sustainable business model to protect the ecosystem, realize associated cost-savings and support future business growth because a healthier, more vibrant society makes for a healthy economy. To achieve this vision, a business cannot only adopt purpose into its operations, opportunities, solutions and profit, but the notion of purpose must be embedded within its culture.

According to the Deloitte 2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Survey and Punit Renjen, former U.S. chairman (2011-2015) and Deloitte Global CEO, an organization’s culture of purpose answers the critical questions of who it is and why it exists through a set of carefully articulated core beliefs which go beyond making a profit.

“It guides behavior, influences strategy, transcends leaders–and endures,” Renjen says. The study suggests a company committed to creating meaningful impact for employees fosters a strong culture of purpose.  For instance, at Tetra Pak, we have a vision to “Protect What’s Good” -- a promise to not only focus on what we do, but the way we do it.  Our priorities center on helping brands provide food that is safe and accessible while protecting the future health of the environment through our commitment to using responsibly-sourced materials and renewable resources, reducing our carbon footprint, and ensuring our packages are being recycled at the post-consumer stage.  For our employees, “protecting what’s good” is a rallying point for building a culture of purpose in our company.

A sense of purpose inspires confidence among employees which can translate into increased productivity, improved retention and decreased costs from reduced turnover rates. The focus on attracting and retaining quality workers has sharpened in recent years for a few good reasons.  Online channels are connecting new career opportunities with eager job-hunters like never before, and the desire to do meaningful work is rising higher on the list of what job-seekers are looking for. Also on that list are those companies that value open communication, collaboration and innovation for creating a more resilient supply chain.  These factors contribute to attracting and retaining quality staff; fostering trust, respect and support; leading to employee satisfaction.

A 2013 Deloitte study, Culture of purpose: A business imperative, found that two-thirds of the employees and executives surveyed agreed that businesses weren’t doing enough to instill a sense of purpose aimed at creating meaningful impact.  This is often overlooked when companies discuss the merits of embedding sustainability at the heart of their business strategy and so is employee engagement.  Employee engagement can be a rich resource for innovation, and when used with integrity, it can create a culture that motivates staff to move environmental initiatives forward.

Today, more employees have the desire to do meaningful work that has positive social and environmental benefits on society, so this can be an important bargaining chip when attracting new talent, especially millennials. “More than 70 percent of millennials expect their employers to focus on societal or mission-driven problems; 70 percent want to be creative at work,” according to the Deloitte U.S. Leadership 2014 Core Beliefs Culture Survey.  They are a value-driven generation making up a large percentage of the workforce and looking for an organization where they can put their fresh new ideas into action.  They are generally seeking out companies striving to fulfill a larger purpose through product innovation, community outreach programs and employee development programs.  The value of purpose is crucial to this talent pool, and without it they will search for new opportunities that can provide a more fulfilling career.

An employee engagement survey is key to measuring how connected employees feel and discovering how well a company is performing against its promises.  We’ve found that conducting these studies on a bi-annual basis not only increases participation, but it also demonstrates their commitment to sharing their opinions.

The benefits of sustainable practices on the health of the environment are well known and increasingly so on the business growth. However, the positive impact it has on driving employee satisfaction across an organization is commonly underrepresented.  Sustainable practices feed into an organization’s culture of purpose and it helps develop an environment that embodies engagement, collaboration, open communication and innovation which in turn spurs trust, transparency and long term employee retention.

Image credit: istock/vaeenma

Elisabeth Comere is the director of environment and government affairs at Tetra Pak. She joined the company in 2006 as environment manager for Europe, where she helped define and drive Tetra Pak’s environmental strategy and contributed shaping recycling for cartons in Europe. Since 2010, she has been based in the United States, focusing on advancing the Tetra Pak’s commitment to sustainability in the US and Canada and is involved in various industry and customer packaging and sustainability initiatives. Prior to this, she served as a political adviser to a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, and headed the environment department of the Food & Drink Industry group in Europe. She is currently a member of the board for the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) and is vice president for Government Affairs for the Carton Council. For further environmental insights from her, visit www.doingwhatsgood.us.


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