4 tips for embedding sustainability into your business decision making

6 min read | Paul Gosling | Article | Corporate social responsibility Sustainability | Career development

Group of decision makers in an office

Who is responsible for making sustainable decisions in your business?

A quarter of employers surveyed in our recent salary guide have a board director solely in charge of sustainability. For the remaining three-quarters, the responsibility can lie anywhere within an organisation, including human resources, operations, finance or estates.

Whether you’re leading the sustainability function in your organisation, or you want to make more responsible choices in your role, it’s important to embed sustainability into your business decision making. Here are four tips for how to achieve this:

  • Develop the soft skills required to encourage leaders to make more sustainable decisions
  • Highlight the business case for sustainable decision making
  • Adapt your approach depending on who you’re communicating with
  • Get your employees on board with your plans


Develop the soft skills required to encourage leaders to make more sustainable decisions

Beyond the technical skills required for your role, your soft skills will be put to the test when you begin encouraging leaders around you to make more sustainable decisions.

The key skills to develop for this purpose include:

  • Negotiation
  • Stakeholder management
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Flexibility

These soft skills will enable you to get your point across more effectively to internal stakeholders during decision-making processes. Flexibility, interpersonal skills and communication are some of the most in-demand skills in the sustainability sector, according to our salary guide. There are many online learning platforms that offer free courses focused on developing your soft skills.


Highlight the business case for sustainable decision making

Many organisations already recognise the importance of prioritising sustainability and are willing to pay more for specialists who can develop effective strategies in this area. In fact, salaries for sustainability roles have seen above-average increases in the past year (6.3%) compared to the national average for other roles (3.5%). If your organisation is already making attempts to accelerate the transition to a net zero future, then you can remind your senior leaders of the company’s mission and provide actionable ways to embed sustainability into business decision making.

If your employer isn’t prioritising sustainability at present, you can highlight the strong business case for responsible decision making. Not only does it reduce your organisation’s impact on the planet, but focusing on sustainable practices can improve your brand’s image, lower your costs and help you attract top talent.

There are also strategic risks associated with pursuing a misinformed or ineffective sustainability strategy. If you’re exaggerating your efforts – ‘greenwashing’ or avoiding communicating details of your green commitments altogether  ‘greenhushing’  then you could be jeopardising consumer confidence in your brand.


Adapt your approach depending on who you’re communicating with

What motivates you in your role may not be the same as what’s important to your business stakeholders, so you must adapt your approach depending on who you’re communicating with.

Every stakeholder has a “currency”: your Chief Finance Officer (CFO) might be driven by revenue, while your Chief Operating Officer (COO) may be more focused on employee engagement levels and your Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will probably want to know how sustainable decisions will impact overall business performance. Take the time to figure out which metrics mean the most to the people you work alongside and use these to communicate the benefits of sustainability.


Get your employees on board with your plans

It’s not just business leaders that you’ll need to get onside when you’re embedding sustainability into your organisation’s DNA  you’ll also need buy-in from your employees. Thankfully, this can often be the more straightforward task, since many employees care about their organisation’s stance on sustainability. Our research shows that 74% of professionals think that a potential employer’s commitment to sustainability is important to consider when searching for a new role.

Your colleagues can be your biggest sustainability champions if you provide them with the information and reasoning they need to get behind your plans. Establishing two-way channels of communication with employees regarding your sustainability ideas will mean they’ll feel more invested in the strategies and motivated to support you.


Discover more top tips from leaders in the sustainability space in our Sustainable Futures: Career Conversations series.

If you’re looking to make your next career-defining move in sustainability, take a look at our latest job opportunities today. Alternatively, if you’re searching for top professionals to champion the sustainability agenda in your organisation, get in touch with our specialist recruitment consultants to find out how we can support your talent management needs.


About this author

Paul Gosling, National Director for Sustainability Recruitment, Hays

Paul has been a specialist recruiter in environment and sustainability for over 25 years. He started recruiting into the sector in 1995 after finishing his BSc in Environmental Science and he’s worked with thousands of individuals and hundreds of companies over the past 20-plus years to support their growth and development in this dynamic and critically important sector.

During this time, Paul has built a wealth of knowledge and he’s recognised as a leading expert on overcoming the unique recruitment challenges facing the environment and sustainability sector.

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