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How to Create a Sustainable Organizational Culture for Your Nonprofit

  • 30th Jun'22

During the past years, sustainability became much more than just a buzzword for nonprofit organizations. In fact, regardless of the industry they operate in, businesses have become more aware of the fact that focusing on sustainability is not only an opportunity to advance the world’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) agenda, but it is also an important source of sustainable competitive advantage and stakeholder management. 

Therefore, many organizations strive to build a culture of sustainability and engage their employees in their process of sustainable growth. However, with the practices mentioned below one can create a sustainable organizational culture for nonprofit organizations.


Employees Must Understand Sustainability

Employees are at the core of an organization’s culture. Thus, it is crucial they understand what sustainability is and how it comes into play in their everyday work. Moreover, sustainability is a journey. To start grasping the complexity of sustainability, employees should also be aware of the impact of their habits, both at work and at home. 

Acquiring a clear understanding of sustainability concepts offers employees the means to align personal and organizational values. Thus, employees gain self-confidence through a better grasp of sustainability, motivating them to discuss and act on sustainability. This will create the foundation for a strong culture of sustainability. 

Moreover, it will empower employees to achieve positive change on personal and professional levels. The company can further advance its sustainability culture by making sure its rewarding system also revolves around sustainability. Also, matters like compensation, benefits, recognition, and appreciation must be incentivized by sustainability. It will send a clear message to employees that sustainability is a priority and sustainable progress is valued as part of the organization’s culture.


Employees Must Practice Sustainability

An organization is a team, albeit one formed by thousands of people scattered all over the gGlobe in many cases. Therefore, employees must be inspired and supported to think sustainably about their work and how sustainable practices can be implemented in their teams and departments. Furthermore, they are the ones that understand firsthand the prospects, limitations, and needs of their activities. 

It is why employees should be encouraged to think critically about their work and brainstorm ideas that would advance sustainability in their divisions. For this, the organization should openly foster a safe space for employees to express their thoughts and promote sustainable thinking. Moreover, the organization should provide a structure for inducing change through support from managers and colleagues. This shows that sustainability is one of the core values and that the organization nurtures sustainable initiatives and mindsets.


Be a Leader

Managers are the ones that can advance a culture of sustainability most efficiently. As employees look up to their leaders, managers should demonstrate that the organization’s sustainable mission and values are not just empty words meant for branding, but the core of its activities. It can come in the form of sustainable initiatives, drawing attention to sustainable achievements, and actively portraying sustainability as a main personal and organizational focus. 

Repetition is key in learning and creating new habits. That is why sustainability should become part of the narrative in every interaction between management and employees, from senior board meetings to sub-departmentals Friday breakfasts. To take it a step further, senior managers should always mention sustainability during speeches and discussions. It slowly embeds the concept of sustainability in employees’ minds and centers sustainability in the organization’s culture.


Practice Commitment to the Cause

Improving the overall KPIs of the company unifies efforts and supports the strategic achievement of targets. Through clear KPIs, employees better understand how they can contribute to their work. It adds clear structure and purpose to their daily work. Therefore, long-term sustainability actions should be facilitated through commitments and goals that are monitored through sustainability KPIs. 

Help to break down sustainable habits into achievable small milestones so that employees get an increased feeling of progress, leading to a greater motivation to continue the sustainable growth process. Employees must be provided with help on this journey so they do not feel overwhelmed by the changes. A sustainable company should create a supportive environment in which sustainability is a priority. 

Building a sustainability culture means integrating sustainability into everyday decisions, overall company purpose, and strategies, and making sustainability part of daily activities. Moreover, a sustainable organization should encourage a culture that rewards initiatives, activities, and commitments to sustainability.


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