Savvy sustainability strategies begin at home

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The leaders of tomorrow expect businesses to work profitably, innovatively and responsibly

The leaders of tomorrow expect businesses to work profitably, innovatively and responsibly. Therefore if companies want to attract and retain high-performing talent in the years ahead they must start working differently now.

According to Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey, more than 80% of generation Y think that businesses have a duty to help address major societal challenges. Those that fail to do risk failing to compete or attract the best future talent.

Diversity coupled with an inclusive culture gives you a competitive edge

The most innovative ideas are forged in richly diverse settings. We’re operating in a rapidly changing and dynamic society – it’s critically important that such diversity is represented within the workforce, not least because our customers, clients, and potential employees expect to see people like themselves in the company.

A Forbes Insights report suggested that where diversity is encouraged and people are empowered to be themselves, innovation, creativity, and better business strategies follow. But this doesn’t just happen by accident – it takes focus, leadership, and commitment to challenging the status quo. And that is why we have chosen to place inclusion and engagement at the heart of not only our internal people strategy but also our sustainability strategy.

Impactful partnerships create positive change

Partnering with charities and other organisations is an important part of any sustainability strategy, but making sure those partnerships are relevant is where many firms can lose their footing.

Take Virgin Media. Over the years it's supported numerous local charities, but in trying to help so many it was creating very little social impact for a business of its size and scale. By choosing one charity to partner with – disability charity Scope – it can work collaboratively to achieve its goal of transforming lives through digital technology. For the 11 million disabled people in the UK technology can be transformational; providing a voice, enabling individuals to live independently, and facilitating access to education and work.

When deciding which charity to partner with you should consider what your employees can learn from the new partnership. The win-win of our partnership with Scope is that it will help us to co-create a more innovative and inclusive workplace. It will help our people become more aware, confident, and knowledgeable when it comes to disability, ensuring that we have a truly inclusive culture with accessible products, services and working practices.

There’s no I in team

It’s no longer acceptable for sustainability to be the job of one team. Sustainability is something that everybody can connect to, have views on, and contribute to. This presents plenty of opportunities for career development, and learning new skills and ways of thinking.

Any savvy organisation ensures that sustainability is part and parcel of the way it does business. Below are some of our discoveries over the years that have enabled us to put sustainability at the heart of the company and motivate people to get involved:

Be available – take engagement to the places where your audiences are likely to be, don’t expect them to come to you. For us this has meant taking our films and key messages to places that reach our staff.

Be creative – find a hook that interests people and gives them a reason to engage.

Be brave – don’t shy away from tricky issues or speaking about instances where you haven’t done so well.

Be active – respond to what people say, don’t bury it away as commercial insight.

Be innovative – put your competencies at the heart of your approach.

Maurice Daw is chief people officer at Virgin Media

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