Less than a year ago at Sustainable Brands ‘13, leading brand innovators from around the world came together in San Diego for the seventh year to address some of their biggest sustainability challenges. These innovators realize that no brand is an island and many challenges they face are shared by their peers, competitors, suppliers and customers. In order to support shared learning and collaboration beyond the conference itself, members of the SB advisory board designed a new structure — the SB Collaboratory — to provide a forum for these professionals to come together to share experiences, ask questions, learn from each other and brainstorm a path forward.
One of the issues that rose to the top of the conversation in June was employee engagement. Study after study indicates a significant correlation between employee engagement, financial returns, and the success of sustainability efforts. Recently CDP released the findings from its annual study of carbon emissions, which found that companies that engage their employees in sustainability are twice as likely to realize emissions reductions and four times more likely to generate monetary savings. A prior meta-analysis by Gallup found a consistent and significant correlation between employee engagement and company performance across nine indicators including customer loyalty, profitability, productivity and turnover. It is no surprise, then, that documenting the ROI of sustainability as an employee engagement focal point, and moving beyond elementary “green team” initiatives to those that enable multiple parts of an organization to generate meaningful innovation is an emerging practice that SB community members have been anxious to come together to discuss.
An initial discussion led by SB board member Jeff Mendelsohn, who shared his vision of the potential associated with embedding sustainability into all corners of the company, originally took place in spring 2012. In 2013, the conversation continued, with further shape given to the current state and challenges experienced around the topic, suggesting community interest and readiness for an ongoing discussion within a Collaboratory setting. Further research was done to poll interest in participating after the conference, and last month, a year-long dialogue group launched the first formal SB Collaboratory initiative focused on assisting participants in driving deeper internal sustainability engagement and measured business results.
To date, brand innovators, communications and PR leaders, sustainability leaders, supply chain leaders and HR leaders have come together from companies such as Annie’s, BASF, Caesars, DIRECTV, eBay, Eastman, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, HP, Interface, Kohl’s, Mattel, SAP, Symantec and Target.
It’s not too late to join. Participation in the Collaboratory can be included as part of a Silver SB Corporate Membership or above. Individuals from non-member brand companies may also apply to participate with permission of the group. Visit the Collaboratory page for more information on how to participate in this year-long learning circle and bring the benefits of engaged employees to your organization.