“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”
-Linguist, Benjamin Whorf
A challenge with corporate sustainability has been about changing mindsets and systems. Businesses often try to sell change to the organization as a way to attain agreement and accelerate sustainable business implementation. Selling change to people is most often not a sustainable strategy for success. It creates resistance.
Think about it. When somebody tells you what to do, do you do it? Probably not. No one likes to be told what to do - even when they are up for it. While sustainable business strategies may further the corporate vision and simultaneously create meaningful work for employees, the employees actually have to be engaged and involved for it to be meaningful.
The post, Consider Consequences Of Language In Organizational Change, illustrates the power of language in managing organizational change. "In his paper 'Discursive Positioning and Planned Change in Organizations,' Kevin Barge, professor of communication in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M, states that our experiences regarding change are influenced largely by the words that we say and the impact of those words on our coworkers. According to Barge, if people are conscious of the effects their words can have on others, they will be more likely initiate successful change efforts and build productive organizational relationships."
How can this be applied from a business sustainability perspective? Implementing sustainable business strategies in any organization requires a complex mixture of finesse: realistic, achievable and measurable. Finding that magical balance is what is required to make change stick.
What are the different messaging types an organization can repeatedly share to engage employees with information and insights into a company’s business sustainability program?
1. Cascade business sustainability strategies down through organizational and individual performance goals.
2. Inform, motivate, and actively engaging employees in the company’s business sustainability programs.
3. Provide ongoing education, training, and knowledge sharing opportunities.
4. Integrate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into the business processes, corporate performance, and employee recognition.
5. Actively engaged with key stakeholders on sustainability issues, including employees to understand how sustainability issues are affecting the business.
6. Perform transparent reporting on sustainability concepts and sensitive issues, with both positive and negative results.
7. Link corporate sustainability to the local community in which employees participate and engage.
Sustainability is all about inclusion. By embracing sustainability’s core principals of inclusion, transparency, and engaged communication with stakeholders, sustainable change is not only possible but encourages ownership and accountability within multiple levels in the organization.