To make strong progress on sustainability, employees need to understand the unique contribution of their business to a more sustainable future, the vision and rationale for transition and the value of the new approach. With truly motivated staff, businesses can drive more ambitious change, leverage worker enthusiasm and bottom-up insight to drive new opportunities, capture value and create a lasting cultural shift.

This section provides principles and steps for mobilising the business.




Embedding and delivering

Embedding a sustainable strategy and delivering on new innovations requires three main steps:

  1. Lead and communicate the change

  2. Enable action

  3. Reinforce the change

Key principles:

  • Leadership: Senior management can lead and champion the change to more sustainable models through demonstrating and reinforcing the change required.

  • Enablement: Discrete projects, products and mechanisms can be developed to enable the change to occur effectively.

  • Ownership: Change, to a more sustainable model, can be embedded in the organisation through training, knowledge transfer and skill development, ensuring that employees continue to be motivated and ‘live’ the change.

  • Navigation: All the components of the change management programme ideally need to be integrated to ensure that the company is headed in the right direction.

1. Lead and communicate the change

Senior sponsorship and leadership can help drive change on sustainability, demonstrating to employees that the management are supportive of the new goals and vision. At the same time, sustainability managers running the process need to ‘read between the lines’, identifying employee concerns and cultural barriers to change.

Key principles: Navigation, leadership

Lead and communicate the change
Create the change team and plan

Gain senior-level leadership:

Establish a core team to drive change on sustainability including senior leadership, proven managers & credible experts

Identify baseline and barriers:

Begin to plan actions to overcome key cultural and technical barriers during the process of change

Engage your critics:

Actively encourage dialogue with consumer organisations and non-profits

Communicate the vision


Crowd-source ideas, and create a dialogue with employees on what the core purpose and vision of the company should be


Communicate a simple, focussed and compelling vision of the change to employees. Take advantage of social media to spread the message

Illustrate the change:

Carry out simple actions and pilot initiatives on key sustainability innovations

Source: Accenture 2013. Some material adapted from John P Kotter & Kotter International (
2. Enable action

Employees should be empowered to take action on key sustainability initiatives. Sustainability managers can identify quick wins can help demonstrate success. Employees are an important source of fresh ideas, and sustainability managers can encourage dialogue and employ tools (such as crowd-sourcing and social media) throughout the programme to create momentum. Action needs to be embedded by the employees themselves for the programme to be sustainable in the long run. Rewarding achievements and quickly learning from failures can help get the workforce behind the programme.

Key principles: Navigation, leadership, enablement

Enable action

Embed the change

Empower passionate employees:

Build a network of employee champions or ‘super-users’ who can work across the business and take responsibility at the local level

Remove barriers:

Overcome barriers by challenging perceived wisdoms and revising established systems and processes that are incompatible with a sustainable company


Assess the change and implementation through KPIs, and measure progress against the baseline

Demonstrate    success

Quick wins:

Plan for the rapid delivery of quick wins to motivate staff, demonstrate success and prove tangible benefits

Celebrate and inspire employees:

Communicate successes to build momentum

Apply lessons from failures:

Be clear about failures but allows the learning to inform and refine the vision and strategy

Source: Accenture 2013. Some material adapted from John P Kotter & Kotter International (
3. Reinforce the change

Incentivising and reinforcing the workforce has shown to lead to more effective contributions of employees towards sustainability initiatives. Companies can celebrate successes, and social media and best practice sharing can help in re-wiring the organisation. Longer term, businesses can formalise the change and embed sustainability, ensuring, for example, that new joiners hit the ground running and that the organisational structure enables continued high environmental and social performance.

Key principles: Ownership, enablement

Reinforce the change

Re-wire the organisation


Develop and deliver training across the organisation on the skills required for a more sustainable business


Build clear incentives for delivering on sustainability goals into corporate KPIs, job descriptions, performance assessments and bonus calculations

Amplify the message:

Encourage best practice sharing, and go viral: take advantage of new social media technologies to increase reach

Institutionalise the change

Organisation design:

Lock in a sustainable approach through the appropriate balance of capability between a central sustainability function and embedded expertise throughout the business

Talent & recruitment:

Develop, promote and reward existing employees who live the change and ensure new recruits have the skills and motivation to deliver on the new approach

Business principles & policies:

Formalise the approach to sustainable business through policies, business principles and employee code of conduct documents

Source: Accenture 2013. Some material adapted from John P Kotter & Kotter International (
Next steps

For more information on any of the topics covered in this toolkit, please see the Resources section.

Business in the Community is working with major companies to help develop their thinking and strategy around the 9 billion challenge. We would be delighted to talk to you about the support we can offer to take this work forward. Please contact Emma Price-Thomas, Sustainability Manager, to learn more about how we can help.