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How Your Training Program Can Lead to a More Sustainable Business

Sustainable business practices

Many people get involved in their local communities or donate to environmental charities in support of Earth Day each year.

Those annual pushes to think green can have a lot of impact, but with the magnitude of environmental changes happening across our planet, individuals and business alike need to become more focused than ever on prioritizing sustainable practices year-round.

Luckily, there are more and more options being developed every day to help people go green in their personal lives, and to help businesses optimize operations while simultaneously becoming more eco-friendly.

Where to Start with Going Green

People develop habits that they often don’t realize are contributing to the ways we harm our planet. If your business has not yet jumped into the task of building sustainable business practices, the first place to start is awareness. Your employees can’t make individual changes if they don’t know how their habits are harmful, or they aren’t aware of more eco-friendly options.

Along with awareness, we have to present solutions – telling people they’re doing something harmful without providing practical and accessible solutions does little to resolve issues.

“The foundation for the long-term, sustained action we need to solve climate change isn’t fear. It’s hope for a better future, for all of us, that motivates us to act.”

– Katharine Hayhoe, Climate Scientist

In a down-to-earth and insightful TED Talk from 2018, Climate Scientist and Professor Katharine Hayhoe talks about the need for productive discussions on climate change and environmental sustainability, and how we can facilitate those conversations by deeply connecting with people’s values. 

Hayhoe says the Yale Program on Climate Communication came up with these public opinion findings:

  • 70% of people in the U.S. agree that climate is changing, and that it will harm plants and animals and affect future generations
  • 66% of people in the U.S. say they never talk about the environmental effects of climate change
  • 75% of people say they never hear the media talk about the environmental effects of climate change

Your organization may be at the forefront of sustainable business practices, or it may not have sustainability anywhere on its radar.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, if you want to see more action, you need to provide awareness paired with solutions – and your training program is the perfect place to promote those green habits and initiatives. 

The Case for Environmental Sustainability in Business

Let’s back up for a second and define what sustainability is:

Sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Every business is focused on their bottom line, but not all are dedicated to the health of the triple bottom line – the economic, social, and environmental impact of an organization. Your business’ financial health is obviously important, but it’s intertwined with the impact you have on the outer world, too.

Our world is increasingly discovering the importance of sustainable business practices, and companies that move toward becoming more eco-friendly are rewarded for those efforts with more engaged and satisfied employees, not to mention a competitive advantage in recruiting talent.  

A 2016 Cone Communications survey of 1,000 millennials found that:

  • 70% of U.S. employees would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues
  • 58% of U.S. employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work

Companies like Google, LEGO, Nike, Patagonia, and IKEA have tapped into the environmental interests of their employees and their business model, and they’re working toward 100% sustainability, along with many others.

“It’s about setting a clear direction, being transparent, having a dialogue with the right partners, and choosing to lead on the issues that really count.”

– Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at IKEA

If your leaders just don’t believe that sustainability can be good business practice, Tensie Whelan and Carly Fink write in Harvard Business Review, “Mounting evidence shows that sustainable companies deliver significant positive financial performance, and investors are beginning to value them more highly.”

Whelan and Fink’s comprehensive case for sustainable business practices concludes with:

“Those companies that proactively make sustainability core to business strategy will drive innovation and engender enthusiasm and loyalty from employees, customers, suppliers, communities and investors.”

Make Training Your Catalyst for Going Green

Maybe you’re thinking “I love the idea of improving how eco-friendly our business is, but I don’t have the kind of influence or authority necessary to make that happen.”

If you have any sway over the operations and content of your training program, then we’d beg to differ.

No business reaches 100% sustainability overnight. As stated above, it starts with awareness tied into practical solutions – that is something employee training does superbly.

If your workforce mirrors the public opinion findings from the Yale Program on Climate Communication, then you have a lot of employees who care about this but need an avenue to start conversations about the changes they can make at work and at home. You should have little trouble getting the majority of employees interested in learning how they can contribute.

The struggle can come with sustaining your initial momentum. To do that, you set achievable goals that are aligned with your organization’s and employees’ values, and you keep those as a top priority by demonstrating ways to continually improve. 

There are all sorts of resources out there to help your business become more sustainable, like this guide from the EPA on managing and reducing waste in commercial buildings.

BizLibrary recently released a new Going Green video course, which is full of personal tips for individuals, and strategies for moving into sustainable business practices. Here’s a quick preview:

Sharing resources with solutions empowers your employees to make little changes over time that add up to a big impact.

So many people want to make more of an impact to help turn around the effects humans are having on the environment, but they just don’t know how they can influence such a large-scale issue as individuals. Your training program can be an ongoing source of knowledge and hope that moves people to act on their environmental concerns. 

Embrace Eco-Friendly Training with Online Learning

If you’re serious about sustainability, but you haven’t yet optimized training by maximizing online learning opportunities, then it’s time to practice what you preach.

The latest advances in learning technology mean that moving training administration and delivery of content online can benefit your program in a multitude of ways – including making it more environmentally-friendly.

Making training 100% online is often not a realistic or effective solution, but when you move the majority of your in-person training online, you can significantly reduce the resources used for classroom materials and travel requirements.

On top of the environmental benefits, employee training programs that use online learning are proving to be more cost-effective and productive than relying on traditional classroom training sessions. Having on-demand learning available to employees anytime, anywhere allows them to learn faster and be more productive in their day-to-day work, along with improving their retention and application of training on the job.

Training is just one of the areas where your business can set sustainability goals to work toward. Whether you already use online training or have yet to make that shift, we hope you’re inspired to look around and find a way you can make a change for the better today.

Our earth will thank you.

Want to learn more about moving your training program online? This guide will help you discern how to find the right learning technology for your organization:

Training & Development Industry Researcher | Krista researches, analyzes, and writes about the impacts of employee learning on organizations and individuals. She looks at the industry shifts and trends that matter to L&D and HR professionals, and helps them understand how to create better training programs that grow their employees and their business.