How to adopt an effective and adapted environmental strategy?

How to adopt an effective and adapted environmental strategy? The current period is an opportune time to review certain aspects of the strategy of organizations. Society as a whole has become aware of the violence of the health, economic and social crisis we are going through, and everyone’s expectations regarding the commitment of organizations have […]

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How to adopt an effective and adapted environmental strategy?

The current period is an opportune time to review certain aspects of the strategy of organizations. Society as a whole has become aware of the violence of the health, economic and social crisis we are going through, and everyone’s expectations regarding the commitment of organizations have passed a milestone. We are gradually moving into the era of the After. It is up to us to seize this opportunity to put into action a new strategy of sustainable development within all companies, whatever their size, as well as on all territories. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is evolving and that’s good.

CSR compliance, a criticized strategy

CSR compliance has mainly concerned large companies. These companies, and in particular their CSR departments, have spent a lot of time collecting environmental data. The goal? To measure their ecological footprint by taking into account their extra-financial “performance” in terms of waste treatment, the pollution generated by their activity, including greenhouse gas emissions, but also their consumption of natural resources and energy, their energy performance, etc. This approach has been an excellent starting point for companies that have been subject to this reporting, but it is now facing many criticisms. The most important of these concerns the consideration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), proposed by the UN. Rather than being considered as a starting point for defining corporate strategy, the SDGs often serve only to feed the meager results of a poorly developed environmental strategy. When it is convenient, some companies therefore take the problem in reverse… And unfortunately, this does not produce real progress, or even positive change.

The limits of compensatory CSR

Offsetting CSR is flourishing. For companies, it consists of calculating their greenhouse gas emissions and finding ways to achieve carbon neutrality. The success of this approach proves that the awareness of organizations is real. But in most cases, the actions taken are not sustainable. If the intention is honorable, the results obtained are not always those hoped for. Let’s take the example of tree planting as a carbon offset. Financing the planting of trees to absorb carbon will only have a positive effect if they manage to grow, and this in several decades. Knowing that the available terrestrial surface is limited and the quantity of CO2 to be captured is increasingly important, this solution does not seem sustainable and it only meets a small part of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This type of action, easy to implement and inexpensive, allows companies to obtain a right to emit CO2. But today, faced with the urgency of the situation, it is necessary to opt for an effective sustainable development strategy with viable solutions. What if organizations reduced their greenhouse gas emissions at the source rather than offsetting them? An investment in an environmental project should not be a substitute for reducing its CO2 emissions.

Why change your environmental strategy?

The meager results obtained with the compliance and compensation CSRs are no longer sufficient. Neither to public opinion nor to employees. Defining a CSR strategy aims to develop new growth levers, without compromising the future of present and future generations. But this fundamental work cannot be done without taking into consideration all the company’s stakeholders, especially its employees. Organizations must at all costs react by taking into account the new expectations of their employees towards the company, the erosion of their commitment, as well as the current consumer trends. It is becoming essential for companies to propose new sustainable development strategies that can be truly embodied by their employees. Implementing a positive approach not only allows the company to stand out and improve its image with its customers and future employees, but also to foster a sense of belonging among employees by giving meaning to the work done internally.

As employees are the actors and beneficiaries of their company’s evolution, it seems obvious today to make them take part in this project. According to an Insign survey on the positive economy, 92% of private sector employees are in favor of a positive strategy in their company and 87% are ready to invest in its implementation. The reasons given are multiple: to give more meaning to what they do, to feel useful to society and to contribute to a better world while improving their working conditions. Today’s employees want to understand and get involved in their company’s CSR strategy. They are ready.

Participative CSR: when employee involvement becomes a necessity

Participative CSR is distinguished by its cross-functional approach. It involves all of the company’s stakeholders, and in particular its employees who are directly concerned by the company’s CSR strategy. The idea is to pool and enhance the ideas and skills of all employees, by encouraging the exchange of ideas and the commitment of each individual. In other words, participative CSR calls on collective intelligence. This approach allows the implementation of a sustainable CSR strategy within a company. According to Pierre Lévy, philosopher, sociologist and researcher in information and communication sciences, collective intelligence “is an intelligence that is distributed everywhere, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and which results in the effective mobilization of skills. Collective intelligence refers to the ability of a group of people to mobilize and converge their knowledge, skills and thoughts in order to achieve a common goal. Using collective intelligence in a company allows to create a real synergy, to optimize the coordination between employees but also to stimulate their motivation. By generating positive energy within its teams, the company can accelerate the implementation of its new CSR strategy and achieve more ambitious results.

The key role of employees

In essence, the employees of a company are also citizens and consumers. It is becoming urgent for companies to engage their employees as ambassadors of their CSR strategy. Yet, according to a study by INSEE (2019), “employee buy-in and motivation is the second most important expected outcome for CSR (38%).” Only 38% of companies are aware of this and the work of transformation remains important. Informing employees of their CSR strategy and explaining it well is the first objective to be set. But this is not enough. It is also important to listen to employees, to understand how they receive, adhere to and participate in this societal transformation initiated by their employer. It is also crucial for the company to make this CSR strategy participative, to encourage collaborative exchanges and to make management methods evolve around this transformation. According to the Insign survey on the positive economy, 91% of the employees questioned think that it is up to their manager to drive a positive strategy. But 89% believe that it can only work with the support of employees. Committed employees naturally become motivated flag bearers for the company, both inside and outside the company. So everyone wins!

The challenges of this new approach

One of the major challenges for CSR departments is to involve all employees in sustainable development actions. To be optimal, the impact of these actions must be global to the company. Unfortunately, when they are implemented, it is not uncommon to find that these actions are limited to the company’s headquarters. Mobilizing the entire team for a day of volunteering with associations or for a global cleanwalk, for example, is often a difficult challenge for the CSR department. Repeating the initiative several times a year becomes almost impossible. The solution often chosen is to limit these actions to a few establishments, and only a few local volunteers are willing to act as relays.

Although the actions of this “new” CSR must be global in scope, they must also promote the local fabric of each of the establishments where the actions proposed to employees will take place. It will be recommended to involve all local stakeholders in order to perpetuate local economic relations and increase the resilience of the entire corporate ecosystem. It is essential to include local communities and specialized associations. Finally, an effective “new” CSR must offer ongoing actions to its employees. There will always be key events during the year where everyone can come together to act in the framework of a sustainable development objective. But employees are expected to be able to act on their own request, when they want, when they have time or when they feel the need. The company must therefore think about a continuous interaction mode with its employees. But more than that, it must also encourage the emergence of concrete initiatives on their part, notably by creating a space for discussion and co-construction. By giving them the desire and the means to do so, employees will be able to take ownership of the issues and come up with answers. This approach will enable us to move away from “top-down” CSR and increase the company’s social and environmental impact in all business lines and at all levels. It is only in this context that the impact of common and individual actions will be optimized on each of the objectives addressed in a new CSR strategy for the company.

To go further…

To ensure this transition, the company can also work on its raison d’être. In France in particular, with the Pact law, it is now possible to formalize the company’s desire to change some of its priorities in order to refocus on objectives outside the strictly economic perimeter. Officially displaying its values in its articles of association, through a raison d’être shared with all of the company’s stakeholders, can be a powerful mobilizer of energy. In this case, this raison d’être and these values must be clearly reflected in a societal and environmental strategy.

A quick and efficient action

Do you want to accelerate your company’s societal transformation? CitizenWave is the solution to help you implement a new CSR strategy within your organization. As the first collaborative platform specialized in sustainable engagement, it allows you to strengthen the commitment of your employees in a voluntary and efficient sustainable development strategy. Beyond its software suite, CitizenWave accompanies you at each step of the development of this strategy and offers you quick action mechanisms to mobilize and involve your employees in the long term.

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