Driving the sustainability agenda through diversity

Businesses have a uniquely challenging mission when driving the sustainability agenda forward. Every organisation has a different operational model, and requires a sustainability strategy that is bespoke to the way they do business. With so much scope for debate and discussion, and the sharing of experiences and ideas, diversity and sustainability should go hand in hand. Yet, if it is such a wide ranging global issue, why do we not see more diversity when it comes to the sector?

The lack of diversity comes at a time when Generation Y, or often referred to as ‘Millennials’, are entering the workforce. They are the most racially diverse, environmentally engaged and tech savvy individuals, who are looking for opportunities to contribute towards making a real change. Sustainability is a way of life for millennials, yet a lack of inclusion in the workplace can act as a barrier to innovation.

At the launch of a London Hub for the Women in Sustainability Network, gender biases in the workplace were addressed. The network focuses on bringing women together who want to make a shift within their industry. On the night, a number of interesting issues were covered, along with looking at the possibilities to effect real change. My colleague, Julie Craig, shared her insights as one of the speakers. She talked about how expanding your network and looking for opportunities outside your comfort zone can contribute to building a successful career. Making sustainability work is about acting and thinking differently, and this in principle can, and should be applied when hiring within the sector. Here are three reasons why.

  1. Diverse perspectives strengthens business outcomes

Diversity in the workplace widens the variety of opinions and approaches, contributing to new ways of addressing complex issues and enriching the solutions. Engaging with views from different backgrounds can open up a wealth of ideas, so going beyond a mandatory diversity policy and offering different employment opportunities such as apprenticeships, job sharing and training gives exposure to the sustainability agenda and your business.

  1. Diversity, sustainability and business are intrinsically linked

Millennials and the workforce should not only be considered as employees that can affect change. They are also consumers, stakeholders, managers and benefactors, looking to weigh in on addressing global issues. The way businesses operate affect not only their employees, but their supply chains, wider network, and the local and global environment of their operations. As global businesses become more local, environmental and social justice come into play. It is often found that disadvantaged communities, and people of racial backgrounds, live in areas that are more prone to environmental problems exacerbated by climate change.

  1. Diversity and inclusion will encourage the next generation of change leaders

To continue progress in sustainability, and create a lasting impact, we need to engage the next generation of change leaders by listening to a variety of views and opinions to make informed strategic decisions. Diversity fosters collaboration, which can contribute to bridging the divide across a number of levels.

Shifting the paradigm is no new challenge to sustainability professionals. By working in the field of sustainability, we find value in contributing to finding solutions to better our environment and way of life. The sector now needs to contribute towards one more shift, and become even more engaged in diversity and fostering an inclusive working environment. To take on the challenge, look to clarify your diversity and inclusion strategies, foster collaboration in your organisation and hire outside your comfort zones to become leaders in driving the sustainability agenda through diversity.