Sustainability in your organisation – Start with Why

Over a decade ago, Simon Sinek gave an enlightening TED talk ‘Start with Why’

It provided a new perspective on company culture centered around the notion that people – customers and employees – don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.  The call to action from the talk is that leaders need to do more to explain and then embed the Why into their actions. Only with clarity of Why, can they inspire internal teams who know How to create the What, in a way that consistently affirms the Why in the marketplace.

The risk is that without clarity of purpose – embodied in the Why – there will be a words-to-action gap for many companies, where business behaviours do not align either with publicly stated purposes or with the expectations of internal stakeholders, in particular employees.

Next let’s apply Sinek’s thinking to sustainability.

For many businesses, it may be sufficient to focus purely on the How and the What regarding sustainability in business – through ESG reporting and green initiatives – as this will be good enough to meet the needs of regulatory authorities and keep pace with industry competitors. But the downside is that internal culture will view sustainability purely as an operational deliverable – nothing less, but nothing more. It’s a business as usual requirement in the same way that decreasing staff churn is to HR, and managing costs is to finance. A tick box from a cultural perspective.

It’s easy to spot businesses such as these as there is no explicit link made between ESG goals and the job role KPIs, as sustainability isn’t made into a relevant topic for employees on a personal level.  And the risk of such a bare minimum cultural approach is that customers and employees have a nagging doubt that – despite all the money being spent on green initiatives – there’s something ‘not quite right’ about all the efforts a company is saying they are proud of.

What’s lacking is the Why. These are the companies that invest in sustainability because they have to, not because they want to. And until the financial bottom line is in danger, or talent acquisition is getting tough, nothing will change in terms of culture.

Creating the right culture for sustainability in business

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The triple bottom line is a business concept that extends the traditional shareholder metric of financial performance and spreads it across “three Ps”: People, Planet, and Profit.

And the differences are clear to see. Businesses that have their Why centred around their social and environmental impact create a different type of culture:

    • They link job role KPIs directly to impact on ESG
    • They give employees more opportunity to engage and make a difference day-in day-out in the workplace and at home through their sustainability driven actions
    • And importantly, customers and communities recognise why those businesses exist and why their staff have the beliefs that reinforce those behaviours

The Impact Fifty

Ailuna has just been recognised as an Impact 50 Emerging Company for 2023

We were selected from thousands of companies of all shapes and sizes that are making a true impact – where every employee from top to bottom genuinely feels like their contributions are making a difference to a cause they care about. In short, companies that are at the forefront of impact and change when it comes to leading the climate charge. 

We are now being thought of in the same way as businesses like Patagonia, Headspace, Earthly and Olio that are having such an impact on our everyday lives.

“Leaders need to do more to explain and then embed the Why into their actions. Only with clarity of Why, can they inspire internal teams who know How to create the What, in a way that consistently affirms the Why in the marketplace.”

So what did the selection panel and interviewers see?  

  • First, they recognised the Ailuna Why is about having hope, passion, and positivity in tackling climate change
  • Next, the What is about creating a global world-class behaviour change platform that enables people and companies to develop the habits that fuel beliefs to become more sustainable 
  • And the How is through employee and customer engagement, as this is critical to long-term success to recruit and retain the best talent.

And now you can see for yourself – from the work that the Impact 50 team has done – through the videos from Frederikke who describes how it feels to know that your work is having a true impact on something you care about; and from Justina who describes the type of person would thrive and feel at home working there.

The DNA that runs through these capable, talented Generation Z employees is passion and belief in why they do what they do. They embody the hope that they can help the world become a better place.

Would you trust them and the rest of the Ailuna team to inspire you and your business to become more sustainable?

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Ailuna Business Matters is a business-focused newsletter, the purpose of which is to provide our B2B community with thought leadership on employee engagement in the workplace on sustainability. We do this by providing new ways to encourage staff to live more sustainably both in and outside the workplace.

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