As a sustainability practitioner, I am glad to facilitate a discussion today about the value of I-O psychology in embedding sustainability into organizations, particularly mainstream companies. Based on my six-year practice in sustainability consulting, and my combined 18 years of experience in management consulting and communications, I recognize a great need for organizational development expertise in this arena.
Leadership is the key determinant of whether sustainability becomes rooted as a core value in any given organization. For sustainability to flourish, it must be embedded into human resources. Even projects based on good intentions and credible tools will flounder without engaging influencers and managers at all levels in the process. The recent SIOP Leading Edge Consortium on environmental sustainability is a rare opportunity to explore the human element in all the depth it deserves. As we exchange ideas for how to use I-O psychology to create a culture of sustainability, it is helpful to also consider the ways that a burgeoning green ethos can be acted up and expressed to maximize bottom-line or “triple-bottom line” benefits.
A quality sustainability program may include a variety of components. While no single template applies to every organization, a good program will generally touch on five key areas:
In my experience, the “people” aspect is frequently bypassed too quickly. Tactical issues and budget constraints often take priority. Consequently, where a culture is not properly prepped for change, project results are more incremental than transformational. This reality strongly limits progress, and exposes an area of sustainability that could benefit abundantly from organizational development expertise.
Next page: Building blocks for a solid sustainability program