What 'Making Sustainability Everyone's Job' Really Means

Sustainability should be in everyone's job description. We have heard it before. But what on earth does that really mean? If you want to embed sustainability into a company, take a systems approach working through the existing competency model.

It appears that The Co-operators, the largest Canadian-owned insurance provider, has figured out a systems approach to embedding sustainability into everyone's job. It might help that they are a co-operative, owned and managed by its members. In 2011 The Co-operators was ranked as the #1 "Corporate Citizen" by Corporate Knights, which rates Canada's largest companies on their sustainability performance.

Coro Strandberg, Principal of Strandberg Consulting, which provides sustainability strategy services to companies including The Co-operators, observed that, "The Co-operators has a number of leading HR practices when it comes to sustainability, including staff training on sustainability and incentivizing executives to achieve key sustainability goals. These and other practices have earned them national recognition in their efforts to be catalysts for sustainability."

Bernie MitchellI talked with Bernie Mitchell, the Vice President for Human Resources at The Co-operators, about what their process looks like.

Mission, Vision, and Values

Mitchell said that Co-operators hard-wired sustainability into their Mission, Vision and Values statement. She explained: "this is about who we are, what we believe in and what we stand for. We want to make business decisions in support of our missions, visions and values."

Their Mission, Vision, and Values statement, updated in 2008, includes sustainability language such as:

  • The Co-operators aspires to be valued by Canadians as ... a catalyst for a sustainable society.
  • At The Co-operators we carefully temper our economic goals with consideration for the environment and the well-being of society at large.

Competency Model

While The Co-operators has been using Competency Models for over a decade, it was just last year that they developed a new core competency program called Achieve that applies across their entire group of companies.

Next page: What it actually looks like