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4 components to making people the key to sustainability in your organisation



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As an HR leader supporting more than 9,000 people, Brian French, Vice President – Human Resources, North America, CNH Industrial, believes leaders have an obligation to lead in a way that not only grows businesses, but creates value for society.

I believe that leaders have an obligation to lead their organisations in a way that not only grows businesses, but creates value for society.

Since people define the very purpose of a company by what they do, and how they do it, creating such a sustainable work/life environment cannot be accomplished without employees who can understand —and embrace the philosophy — that sustainability is not a goal, but integral in how the organisation functions and interacts with both internal and external stakeholders.

As a human resources leader supporting more than 9,000 people across CNH Industrial and its branded businesses in North America, I’ve seen firsthand how employee engagement around sustainability creates success for our company and communities.

I also know that we can always do more, and that striving to do more to inform, engage, and empower employees to integrate sustainability in their daily lives needs to be a key area of focus for today’s human resources leadership.

There are four components to making people the key to sustainability in your organisation:

1. Awareness 

First off, employees need to be encouraged to see sustainability as ‘the way we work’. Many companies involve employees in specific sustainability projects so they demonstrate their awareness through their involvement.

While this can be effective, I believe organisational motivation for sustainability has greater resilience when employees see that sustainability can make their day to day lives more effective. This means using truly integrating processes that encourage changes that impact any and every aspect of the activities in which employees engage.

Imagine thousands of employees inspired to find ways to save time and resources, or make their workplaces safer, less physically exhausting, and environmentally friendly; their awareness not of sustainability as ‘a thing’, but a natural component of everything they do.

Our manufacturing approach, called World Class Manufacturing, or WCM, does just that by allowing and encouraging facilities to achieve ever-greater levels of accomplishment in supporting people and the planet.

2. Habits

Though the numbers vary, it’s estimated that as much as 20% of the impact human beings have on the environment is the result of direct consumer behaviour (the rest being outcomes from industrial activities).

This isn’t an inconsequential number — one-fifth of humanity’s impact on the planet come from our behaviours as consumers, not employees — so it makes sense to expand our understanding of the people at our workplaces to include their activities outside of work. This creates an entirely new avenue for effecting progress on sustainability.

We actively encourage employee participation in ‘Impact Days’, in which we collect and deliver things such as school supplies, snack packs, and blankets for people in need. 

For instance, we regularly host information and training sessions to educate our people about not only how our facilities can impact an issue, but what they can do individually, too. A session on greenhouse gas emissions explores how we use energy and provides a literal hands-on physical crank to illustrate the charging differences between incandescent and LED bulbs (it’s huge, by the way).

3. Engagement

Another tool for impacting lives in the communities in which we operate is to provide platforms for employees to support organisations that assist individuals, families, and social institutions and, thereby, help make them sustainable.

We actively plan and encourage employee participation in activities called ‘Impact Days’, in which we collect, package, and deliver things such as school supplies, snack packs, and blankets for people in need. Employees can also personalise their community involvement by utilising voluntary time off in which they can support a community organisation in which they have a specific interest.

4. Influence

Now, take that impact and consider the multiplier effect of each employee influencing the family and friends in their lives, whether by the example of their behaviour, or by acting as evangelists for change.

This is especially true for Millennial employees, who bring with them both a passion and ability to contribute ideas that make a difference in their own lives, as well as in that of the company or community.

As an example, I’m incredibly impressed with the influence of a young CNH Industrial Capital employee, Chelsea Givens who was transferred from New Holland, Pennsylvania to Racine, Wisconsin earlier in the year.

Immediately after relocating she connected with local business and service organisations to become involved in the community. In under a year she was recognised for her involvement with the local business community and commitment to volunteerism with a Young Professional of the Year award from the local Manufacturers and Commerce Association.

Ultimately, sustainability must itself be sustainable, and that means not only what we do, but how we do it, and with whom do we work and live. Your employees already ‘own’ many of these activities and relationships. They are key to sustainability.

Lead image / StockUnlimited

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