How to Embed ESG in Your Culture
Changing a culture is rooted in changing behaviors and stories.
When you introduce ESG aspirations to your organization, it is frequently necessary that a shift must occur within your culture to advance these efforts. Staff mindsets and actions must place priority on ESG intentions. In order to make this change, each employee must know how they can be part of the solutions through their everyday actions. Advancing ESG priorities must become effortless and easy; a part of the cultural DNA. To make this stick, you must address, and marry, employee experiences and organizational communications.
As you embed ESG in your organization, you need to tie these efforts to existing corporate-level imperatives. At the cultural level, this means tying ESG intentions to your values. Instead of adding on values or revamping existing ones, begin by linking ESG-focused behaviors to each existing value. This shows people the specific ESG-related actions you would like for them to take in support of each value. Employees can then make deeper meaning of your existing principle structure, and understand how important living into the values are for pursuing ESG goals.
With ESG behaviors in place, reward and recognize when you see others living into them. Leadership should understand what each behavior means, and beyond being primary models of them, should appreciate others for their demonstration of these behaviors. It’s possible that the behaviors could get worked into a formal performance management system to accomplish this. Or the recognition may be more informal, where leadership and employees recognize each other with physical cards or digital shoutouts. When you create this support system within the organization, it’s easier to seed these behaviors and they are more readily adopted by all.
Communication plays a huge role in helping employees understand the shifts you want to make in the culture. Primarily, communications give employees the information they need to make such shifts, setting expectations for their involvement and for where you intend to go together. Use primary launch communications to detail everything for employees. Be explicit about your expectations of their behaviors and the intentions for your organizational impact. This creates deeper levels of trust and understanding, and helps employees feel the authenticity of your actions — important outcomes for working together toward ESG goals.
For furthering communications beyond a launch, storytelling will play a huge role. It’s through stories that we show people what we mean about our efforts; how we demonstrate our effectiveness and speak about our future. Stories about how others are demonstrating the behaviors help employees make sense of what you mean about them in action. And stories about the impact of collective efforts will keep everyone motivated to continue on the path of ESG work.
Changing a culture is rooted in changing behaviors and stories. If you can infuse ESG stories and behaviors into the organization, you’ll shift the culture over time. ESG will, after a while, no longer feel like an accessory to the mindset and actions of employees, but an integrated part of how you do your work every day. This will make accomplishing greater ESG goals easy, as everyone understands their role, and what’s required of them, in pursuing these intentions together.
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