What Does It Look Like to Embed Sustainability Across an Organization

By on October 11, 2017

From GreenBiz:  A recent GreenBiz article by Joel Makower described how Cargill is preparing all of its employees to understand the concept of sustainability. The giant food and agricultural chemical company is also one of the largest private companies in the United States.

One of its managers who was very knowledgeable in sustainability felt it was time to build the profile of sustainability within the organization. The company organized a summit and invited employees from a variety of roles — supply chain, procurement, plant managers, finance, IT, sales, marketing, communications, legal, R&D, corporate affairs and government relations.

The invitation made it clear that attendees wouldn’t just be passive listeners but active participants. One goal of the event was to “create champions” throughout the company on sustainability. The summit was so successful that it was even expanded to its supply chain.

If a company is committed to integrating sustainability into its operations, it cannot do so effectively just by assigning the responsibility to a chief sustainability officer or comparable position. As Cargill got employees from all of its departments to understand and thus implement sustainability in the various departments, all companies should follow this pattern.

A number of companies have adopted this strategy and been very successful. One of the first was Interface, the largest commercial carpet manufacturer in the United States. Its founder and chairman, Ray Anderson, not only made Interface sustainable, but also became an international spokesman for environmental sustainability for many years until his death in 2011.

Other companies that successfully have integrated sustainability into their operations by training most employees include Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), the large technology integrator primarily for the Department of Defense, as well as Dow Chemical, DuPont Chemical and General Electric.

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