I just attended a talk by Kevin Hagen, who until recently was CSR Director for REI. In his talk, he referred to a phenomenon that Lee Scott, (former CEO of Walmart) discussed in an interview. Specifically – Scott observed that across Walmart, those employees that were pursuing sustainable business were typically getting promoted faster than their peers.
This is pretty cool and, come to think of it, hardly surprising. These would be the people who are interested in how to make things more efficient. These are the people who think from a systems perspective. These are the people who question the status-quo.
In fact, come to think of it, we’ve seen variations on this theme among our customers at Scope 5. We’ve heard customers explain that the ability of an employee to identify one or more sustainability goals and to thoroughly pursue it (regardless of the quantifiable outcome), is a good indicator for the likelihood for that employee to be successful.
Much of our time is spent thinking about the business case for sustainability and how to advance it. We’ve seen a lot of work on this. But – I’m not sure yet that this particular example has been captured as part of the business case. I’m not sure how to crisply define it. Perhaps something like this:
Encouraging and monitoring the pursuit of sustainability goals within your organization will enable you to identify and empower top performers.
This is closely related to a couple of oft cited benefits; one – that pursuing sustainability will help you to attract and retain the best and brightest employees, and two – that sustainability programs promote employee engagement which in turn improves productivity. But this particular benefit is a little different. This benefit speaks to how one can identify and enable the top performers out of those who are already retained and engaged. I propose that it become part of the myriad points that make the business case for sustainability.