Are organisational culture and sustainability interrelated? How do you align your culture with your sustainability strategy? The latest Sustainability Conversations seminar explored these questions.
A 60-strong gathering of the Sustainability Hub Norway community recently shared perspectives and insights on organizational culture, sustainability strategy and purpose.
Convened by Sustainability Hub and Samfunnsviterne (Norway’s Association of Social Scientists), the half-day event attracted corporate partners, NGOs, civil society bodies, researchers, consultants and students, and even a Polish blogger who wanted to challenge Polish perceptions of Norway being a homogeneous society.
Sustainability Conversations kicked off with an introduction by Andreas Friis, Sustainability Hub Executive Director, followed by a series of keynote talks.
Greeting the gathering, Andreas underlined how “Creating sustainability and sustainable corporate culture is a long-term process and a journey. We believe companies that engage seriously with sustainability become more fit for the future, while creating lasting employment and the innovative solutions needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030.”
Changing culture - reshaping an industry
The first keynote, from Helen Aasgard, Director of People and Culture at Otiga Group, included an open request for test pilots for new AI solutions aimed at counteracting bias in the recruiting process, as well as a challenge to the recruiting industry.
“The recruiting industry is conservative and full of bias, so it’s failing to deliver the talents and future leaders we needed to face global challenges. Our objective is to help transform recruiting.”
Otiga aims to be the “most innovative and sustainable Nordic player within staffing, recruiting and organizational development,” and Helen explained its approach to using the SDGs as stepping stones for achieving social sustainability.
“To map a path to sustainability, find the SDGs you can impact most and move boldly. Be specific and go beyond strategic visions to actionable initiatives – otherwise little will happen.”
“We discovered we can make most impact with gender equality and decent work conditions, so our focus areas for creating a sustainable culture are SDGs 5, 8 and 12. Furthermore, as we want to collaborate to reshape the recruiting industry, which requires industry-wide knowledge sharing, we focus on SDG 17.”
Educating future leaders
One reason for recruiters not finding the new talents we need may be that the educational system isn’t producing them. Therese Sverdrup, Vice Rector for Innovation and Development at NHH (Norwegian School of Economics) provided some perspectives on how one of Norway’s leading business schools is addressing this.
“Sustainability is at the core of research, education and outreach at NHH. We embed sustainability in our courses and ensure that research on sustainability feeds into our programs,” Therese explains.
She describes how young people struggle to understand what the economy is and how part of NHH’s remit is to help them realize the complexity of modern economics. Consequently, NHH labels all its courses with SDG tags allowing students to make the connections between studies and global issues.
Similarly, she describes how young people’s affinity for sustainability has grown. “Our students are the leaders of the future, and they need important skills sets. Most young economics students want to address and solve global challenges, and at the same time understand how to run businesses in a sustainable way.”
A “fit-for-purpose” Purpose
According to Deloitte research, while many big businesses communicate a clear purpose only a quarter link this to sustainable development. Deloitte sustainable growth experts Hanne Solem and Turi Pettersen explained how one of the world’s major consultancies developed the Deloitte Purpose Journey to improve its sustainable culture, after discovering that only 54 % of its staff saw a clear link between their work and Deloitte's purpose.
How to do Purpose
The Future Leader Mindset
Elin Nørve, Founder & CEO of FutureLeaders, shared some insights on millennial/Generation Z culture that are relevant for corporate culture.
With 50% of the global population now below 28 and millennials becoming the most qualified talent pool, we need to understand how they think in order to harness their expertise.
“These young talents want to make a difference – they are purpose driven. If you include "sustainability" in a job announcement, you are likely to receive 25 per cent more young applicants,” she says, adding that "Nearly 70 % of millennials would stay on at a company with a long-term sustainability plan".
Elin also emphasizes how incorporating the Global Goals (SDGs) into company strategy is paramount for creating sustainable business, alongside four other key factors:
In addition to stimulating keynote talks, the seminar featured a series of `Sustainability Conversations´ – roundtable dialogues between companies and sustainability professionals designed to enable deeper exchanges of perspectives and sharing of knowledge.
Here are a few extracts from the dialogues, which were hosted by six sustainability-focused organizations: Scatec Solar, TRYG Forsikring, ATEA Norge, King Coffee, Otiga Group, and Tomagruppen.
As my mentor, digital culture expert Eduardo Ibacache Rodriguez at Fremtind, recently told me, “Vision, Mission, Values, Passion plus People equals culture. Never let processes rule, use them only as a tool. Processes come and go – a great culture can last for a long, long time.”
And as Elin Nørve told the Sustainability Conversations gathering, “To truly achieve sustainability we cannot view it in isolation. It is deeply interrelated with issues like democracy, AI, polarization, new media and the climate crisis.”
Indeed, to bring about the systemic change the world needs, organizational culture has to be firmly anchored in sustainability, both social and commercial. At Sustainability Hub we sincerely hope that this event plays a role in doing this.