How can a sustainable culture drive organisational performance

Suzie Ruffley, Global Head of People & Sustainable Culture at Foresight Group, discusses Sustainable Culture and its impact.

Suzie is an Occupational Psychologist with a wealth of experience and a passion for human capital. With dual MSc’s in Occupational Psychology and Coaching Psychology, she brings a dynamic perspective to her role as the Global Head of People and Sustainable Culture at Foresight Group. Having dedicated over 18 years to this field, Suzie’s expertise is evident in her impressive track record. She has been an integral part of Foresight Group for more than 6 years, contributing to the company’s remarkable growth from 100 to nearly 400 employees. Suzie’s current focus is on spearheading Foresight Sustainability Partnering (FSP), a pioneering sustainability consultancy arm of the business. This venture aligns with her dedication to creating a sustainable culture within the organisation and beyond.

Carl Penfold: What is Sustainable Culture? And what does it mean to you.
Suzie Ruffley: A sustainable culture refers to the integration of sustainable practices and values within an organisation’s operations, policies, and workplace culture. It involves promoting environmentally friendly practices, social responsibility, and ethical decision-making throughout the company’s activities. To me, sustainable culture means creating a workplace that aligns with sustainable principles and values. It involves fostering a culture of responsibility, where employees are encouraged to take actions that benefit the environment and society. It also means recognising that the well-being of employees, the environment, and the broader community are interconnected and should be considered in business decisions. Embedding a sustainable culture requires a collective effort and a commitment to continuous improvement, aiming to create positive impacts beyond the organisation’s immediate operations.
Carl Penfold: Why is Sustainable Culture Important to Foresight & the Industry?

Suzie Ruffley: It is vital for Foresight and the industry as a whole to lead the way in and role modelling best practices and behaviours and operating in a sustainable way. Having a sustainable culture, provides the best workplace environment and a competitive advantage. It enables long-term value creation by promoting investment strategies aligned with sustainable development goals, resulting in both financial returns and positive societal impact.

Moreover, it enhances the company’s reputation and increases stakeholder engagement by demonstrating a strong commitment to sustainability. Embracing a sustainable culture meets the growing investor demand for sustainable investment options, attracting and retaining investors who prioritize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. It also encompasses risk management by considering ESG factors, allowing organisations to identify and mitigate long-term risks.

Carl Penfold: What is the impact from an ESG perspective?
Suzie Ruffley: By proactively considering environmental, social, and governance factors, businesses can adapt to regulatory requirements and minimize potential legal, financial, and reputational risks. A sustainable culture demonstrates the business’s commitment to ethical and responsible practices, building trust with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and local communities. Customers are increasingly conscious of sustainability and are more likely to support and remain loyal to businesses that align with their values. Integrating sustainability into operations allows a business to contribute to positive societal impact. This includes reducing environmental footprint, supporting local communities, promoting diversity and inclusion, and advocating for social causes. Such efforts generate goodwill and strengthen the business’s social license to operate.
Carl Penfold: How do you create & maintain a sustainable culture?

Suzie Ruffley: To create and maintain a sustainable culture, leaders must demonstrate genuine commitment to sustainability and effectively communicate its importance throughout the organisation. Clear and measurable sustainability goals should be established, aligned with the organisation’s values and covering areas such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, employee well-being, and community engagement. Sustainability should be integrated into the employee experience, starting from the onboarding stage and touching every aspect of their journey. Encouraging employee engagement and involvement is crucial. Employees should be encouraged to contribute ideas and provide feedback on sustainability initiatives through channels such as meetings, engagement surveys, or dedicated committees.

Carl Penfold: How could firms engage, involve & measure employee impact?
Suzie Ruffley: Providing education and training programs increases awareness of sustainability issues and empowers employees to make sustainable choices both at work and in their personal lives, further enhancing the sustainable culture. Incorporating sustainability considerations into policies, procedures, and decision-making processes is essential, including into areas such as procurement, product development, supply chain management, and employee practices. Establishing measurement and reporting systems allows for tracking sustainability performance by collecting relevant data on energy consumption, waste generation, and other indicators. Regularly reporting on progress enhances transparency and accountability, ensuring that the necessary actions are being taken to support a sustainable culture. Collaboration and partnerships play a significant role in fostering sustainability. Companies should seek opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, and local communities. Engaging in sustainability initiatives and sharing knowledge and best practices bring sustainability to life and showcase the interconnectedness of sustainable practices.
Carl Penfold: How do you see the topic of recognising & rewarding employee effort/ involvement?

Suzie Ruffley: Recognising and rewarding sustainable practices is important. Setting objectives based on sustainability and rewarding achievements based on those objectives motivates employees and demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability. Acknowledging individuals and teams that demonstrate commitment to sustainability and celebrating their achievements further reinforces the company’s dedication to sustainability.

Continual improvement is key to maintaining a sustainable culture. Regularly reviewing and revisiting sustainability practices and goals allows for adaptation to changing circumstances, emerging trends, and new technologies, ensuring that the organisation remains at the forefront of sustainable practices. Lastly, effective communication and transparency are paramount. Companies must be able to effectively communicate their sustainability efforts and progress both internally and externally. Sharing success stories, challenges, and lessons learned inspires and engages stakeholders. Being transparent about performance and goals fosters trust and demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainability.

Carl Penfold: What impact can sustainable culture have on a business and its people?

Suzie Ruffley: When a business successfully embraces a sustainable culture, it can have a significant impact on the business itself and its people. It can greatly improve reputation and brand value by having a strong sustainable culture being positioned as a responsible and forward-thinking organisation. This can attract customers, investors, and top talent who align with the company’s values, leading to increased brand value and market competitiveness.

Sustainable practices often lead to cost savings through reduced energy consumption, waste reduction, and optimised resource management. By implementing sustainable initiatives, businesses can streamline operations, lower expenses, and improve overall efficiency. A sustainable culture fosters innovation and encourages employees to think creatively in addressing sustainability challenges.

This can result in the development of new products, services, and business models that meet evolving customer demands and create new market opportunities.

Carl Penfold: Finally, what impact can a sustainable culture have on employees and retention?

Suzie Ruffley: A sustainable culture boosts employee morale and engagement, when employees feel their work aligns with their values and contributes to a greater purpose, they are more motivated, productive, and loyal to the organisation. It means you will also attract and retain top talent who increasingly seek meaningful work.

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