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Creating a Strong Sustainability Culture

July 9, 2022

Creating a Strong Sustainability Culture

Creating a culture of sustainability is more than simply implementing sustainable practices into your business. The best sustainability cultures have sustainability embedded into decision-making and are founded on the principle of making lasting change.

Why does it matter? Research shows that businesses that focus on creating and fostering a sustainability culture have better sustainability performance. So if you’re looking to truly make an impact, creating a strong culture of sustainability is the most impactful change you can make.

In a culture of sustainability, everyone within an organization should share the idea that sustainability is a central goal and key value. It should be something that everyone truly believes in and wants to make happen- not just a goal set by upper management.

What is a culture of sustainability?

In essence, sustainability culture is a belief woven into the fabric of an organization that sustainability matters and is achievable. It is a cultural agreement that everyone will do their part and keep sustainability in mind for all decisions.

How to create a strong culture of sustainability

As previously stated, a culture of sustainability cannot be created simply by management declaring it as a goal. It needs to be a shared belief between everyone in an organization. So how, exactly, do you get everyone on the same page? You do it the way you do everything- one piece at a time.

Building a culture of sustainability is the most important change you can make if you want to create lasting change in your organization and the world. A culture of sustainability incorporates sustainable choices into all decision-making.

To reinforce sustainability as a value, you should spread awareness and create lines of communication to foster conversation. Ensuring that leadership is on board will minimize dual-messaging and confusion amongst employees. Lastly, you should have a sustainable strategy that backs up the culture you’re building.

Spread awareness

There are likely people within your organization who are not yet aware of the impact having a sustainability culture can have on the environment. Therefore, spreading information about climate change and pollution is an essential first step to creating a culture of sustainability. Everybody in your organization must be on board to create a genuine culture that is widely adopted throughout the organization.

When you set sustainability goals, ensure that everyone in your organization knows them and has a roadmap for success. When everyone is informed about your targets and goals, empower them to make progress by giving them the tools and space they need to implement change.

Management and leadership

Management and leadership play an important role in demonstrating a culture of sustainability. As leaders, these people should be taking the helm and demonstrating successful change. Leaders must act as role models to motivate and encourage those below them.

It’s easy to say sustainability matters to you, and it’s easy to say you want a sustainability culture. But your employees will notice if you talk about a culture of sustainability while consistently favoring short-term options, wasting resources, and making bad environmental choices. They won’t believe in the culture you’re trying to create; they’ll believe what they see: that your organization is all talk, no action.

While management might not be able to create a culture of sustainability single-handedly, they can undoubtedly destroy one, so leaders must act as role models for the change they want to see. As a leader, try:

  • Taking public transportation to work or choosing an electric car
  • Allowing those that can to work remotely
  • Promoting and supporting paperless alternatives where possible
  • Minimizing unnecessary business travel


Try to create avenues for your employees to ask questions and suggest changes. Effective communication is key to engagement, so keep communication lines open.

Reaffirm that sustainability is one of your biggest goals by openly communicating new initiatives and changes. Give employees access to information about all sustainable choices and changes, not just those in their department. Communicating these changes will reassert that sustainability is an organization-wide value and help to establish your sustainability culture.

Communication should also work both ways. Listen to employee input and give feedback where you can. Demonstrating to employees that their input matters can help illustrate the importance of their individual actions while boosting morale.


At first glance, it might seem a little cheesy, but events are a great way to show employees that everyone is on board. Many employees in larger organizations may not see people from other departments regularly, if at all. Hosting an event and demonstrating that everyone, regardless of position, is working towards the same goals can help reinforce the culture you’re trying to create.

Events can have demonstrable impacts on behavior and impact positive change. One case study showed that having a walkabout pointing out plastic water bottle litter and providing information about plastic waste reduced a team’s plastic water bottle use by 30%.

There are many great ways to demonstrate the importance of sustainability to employees while team-building and having fun. Some great ideas for sustainable events include:

  • A talk about sustainability in your industry
  • A workshop for employees to suggest changes that they could make
  • A walk for a sustainable charity of your choice

You can incorporate sustainable choices into your planning even when hosting events with other focuses as well. Examples include:

  • Choosing a ‘green’ venue
  • Choosing sustainable vendors
  • Including recycling and compost options
  • Minimizing or eliminating single-use plastics
  • Donating leftover food or product


You might be employing all of the other aspects listed above but if you’re not incorporating sustainability into the decision-making process, you’re not creating a culture- you’re employing a sustainability strategy.

In a good sustainability culture, sustainability is factored into every decision made. These decisions can range from choosing a greener office space and revamping your supply chain to cutting single-use plastics out and providing public transportation passes. Every aspect of your organization’s business decisions should at least weigh the benefits of becoming more sustainable against other factors.

Sustainability culture vs. sustainability strategy

Sustainability culture and a sustainability strategy work together but are different. Sustainability culture focuses on the human aspect of making change, things like communication and engagement. On the other hand, sustainable strategy is more about the number of things like codifying change and developing green initiatives.

A culture focused on sustainability will do a better job of promoting a sustainable strategy, and a sustainable strategy will reinforce the culture. While sustainability culture and strategy may play different roles, having one without the other is difficult, if not impossible.


A great way to start your sustainability strategy is to offset your plastic footprint. Second Life can help. Second Life is committed to reducing the plastic already on the planet’s surface by pulling it out of oceans and communities and putting it back into recycling.

While the most significant step to reduce plastic harm is reducing plastic harm, the fact remains that the plastic polluting our Earth is already here. Second Life has projects focused on reducing plastic in hotspots and vulnerable communities. That plastic is then redirected into recycling centers to give it a second life.

We can empower you to implement sustainable sustainability in your organization. You can maximize your positive impact and harm reduction by offsetting the plastic you can’t avoid. So, when beginning your organization’s sustainability journey, consider adding Second Life to your strategy to do the most good for people and the environment.