Organisations have a collective social responsibility to protect our environment, says Vicky Jones.
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We as an industry, along with our clients, need to be held accountable in our commitment to social responsibility.
The defining issue of our time is the climate crisis, and timing is urgent to integrate sustainability into every aspect of business, with employee training as an essential element of any corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.
Recently, the Government passed legislation to commit the UK to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 – an important and welcome step to limit climate change to below 1.5 degrees, which is the preferred UN target.
However, legislation alone will not solve the crisis.
In achieving, and even exceeding, these targets, companies will have a large role to play – in changing business processes, technologies and behaviour.
This last point is where L&D can make significant impact. Digital learning will be a valuable
tool in changing behaviour and assisting clients in accomplishing this needed change.
Now, at a time of imminent crisis, we question who is leading this movement towards a sustainable future? In our field, we all have a part to play; it’s down to our collective social responsibility.
The knowledge gap
Digital learning, pitched right, can bring climate change issues to life – exploring options for positive change and proposing solutions.
Sustainability is taught within schools, while training within business is usually aimed at experts. What’s missing is workplace training for everyone else.
The majority view the climate crisis as a priority, yet there’s inconsistent knowledge and motivation.
Many in the UK admit they could do more personally to tackle climate change (roughly 50%).
While 61% of people feel guilty for the environmental impact of the industry or job they work in; over one in 10 have considered changing jobs due to this.There is a need to demonstrate businesses’ genuine commitment to sustainability with training.
Investment in training
The impact of training is well proven. 2017 research revealed 91% of companies that transitioned to a blend of formal/informal/experiential learning have noticed an improvement in the link between learning and business performance. 88% say digital learning has improved their organisation’s strategies, mission or vision.
For millennials, companies with a strong and demonstrable commitment to CSR and sustainability is an expectation. Investment in employee training contributes towards protecting company brand.
Benefits to society
The cumulative impact of individual actions as an outcome of sustainability training is significant. Particularly if training is focused on dismantling the psychological barriers to climate change.
Education promotes social inclusion, as people of varied backgrounds feel empowered to contribute to debate, inside and outside of work.
Environmental training will be imperative to reaching set targets, but when compared to other training initiatives, there is a lack of demand and supply
People’s mindsets around sustainability are changing and, as learning providers, we should be there to reinforce this.
Research shows that significant news coverage – or indeed, training – on a topic raises its priority among the public. Think of other positive social tipping points that have occurred – for instance, following the 5p charge on plastic bags, and the smoking ban in public places in England (2007).
Business benefit and senior managers
Besides moral responsibility, it’s also logical that businesses lead in accelerating our transition to a sustainable future.
Companies are more agile and can drive change faster than governments, innovating new ways of mitigating the worst effects of climate change.
Training increases awareness of the issue, its impact on business internally, and equipping employees to have more in-depth conversations with suppliers.
Another desired outcome is that training encourages ideas from employees about ways to make savings.
Following sustainability training at Unilever, employees suggested reducing the length of end seals on PG Tips teabags by 3mm. This saved the company €47,500 and 9.3 tonnes of paper between 2015 and 2016.
Economic benefit has also been gained by the 600-plus companies that have committed to science-based targets: an initiative to specify how much and how quickly businesses intend to reduce their greenhouse
According to company executives: 52% have seen investor confidence boosted; 35% see increase in regulatory resilience; 55% have gained competitive advantage, and 63% agree it drives innovation.
Training is one part of the solution. But it must ring true with corporate actions, led by executives and complementary to a wider CSR strategy, inclusive of other formal, social, and psychological employee motivators. Economic benefits must also be clearly communicated, reducing any scepticism in the workforce about climate change, or indeed the company’s motivation for commitment.
Environmental training will be imperative to reaching set targets, but when compared to other training initiatives, there is a lack of demand and supply.
This raises the question of achievability, measurability and importance of the environmental initiatives that companies are setting and the solutions we, as the L&D industry, are providing. We must hold ourselves accountable to CSR commitments.
We have the chance to change behaviours for the betterment of the planet – harnessing the opportunity as an industry to move towards collective social responsibility.
Within the L&D industry, we must also ask why climate change isn’t mandatory as part of CSR policy within companies.
Companies don’t tackle sales targets, products, or operational efficiency without investing in people. Climate change targets should be no different.
This is a piece from December’s TJ Magazine. Get three months for £9.99 here.
About the author
Vicky Jones is CEO at Fenturi. Find out more at Fenturi