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Industry Culture and Sustainability Capabilities

Updated: May 25, 2023

Sustainability Consultant Gargi Mukkamala reflects on delivering yet another thought-provoking speech that captured the attention of many sustainability professionals at the recent ISC Connect Conference in Brisbane.

On October 12th 2022, I had been given the opportunity to open up a session as the ISC Conference in Sunshine Coast, Queensland. A month prior I was given the topic of the session and began my research. Easily enough, the topic wasn’t far from what I was already constantly observing with the changes in the industry.

I’d like to start by saying sustainability professionals offer a unique world view and are considered an asset at both the project level and organisational level, as they positively influence and contribute to addressing the issues today. So it’s interesting to put myself and others in the contextual setting of the impacts on our sector.

Being a sustainability consultant for a little over a year now, I’ve seen the shift in dynamics of the industry. Post the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry was almost in a pressure cooker environment facing challenges with skill and labor shortage, disruption in the supply chain and increased costs. While we have slowly recovered from these, there are now upcoming challenges with inflation and higher attrition rates.

Sustainability is rapidly growing into being a key capability for all roles within organisations and businesses in the sector. Furthermore, embedded sustainability is now the talk of the town and how it can be incorporated within the organisational DNA.

It’s become evident that there has been an influx of work resulting in heightened levels of stress or the term ‘feeling burnt out’ that I’ve heard one too many times. Observing some prominent red flags in the industry with rising levels of fatigue in the workforce, diversity challenges and potential capability gaps. It also leads to people wanting more out of their work experience resulting in putting themselves in those difficult situations; whether to stay or leave?

The time has come where we need to understand how organisations and businesses are willing to address these issues in order to embed sustainability practically at every level of the sector. It’s imperative to put forth an urgency on these organisations to rethink their capability statements and strategies and work around solutions to solidify a sustainable organisational culture that would meet the demands of the market today.

These are a few of my thoughts on how we can achieve this;

1. Build capacity in the sustainability profession, by bridging the gap between learning and working in sustainability. Integrations of sustainability resources or an ESG lens will benefit the sustainability capability across all disciplines.

2. Painting a clearer picture of defining the role of the sustainability professional – the capability requirements and how the role is structured and supported by organisations.

3. The days where your experience mattered more than how you ‘fit’ within the organisation are long gone now. Change in methods of sourcing candidates from the traditional qualifications and experience method to ‘hire for attitude and train for skill’.

4. Strategy to ensure inclusion of indigenous groups and wider diversity capabilities across the sector. We’ve had a great insight into diversification and inclusion from the sessions yesterday and I think we all can agree that everyone deserves a chance and everyone deserves a voice.

5. Today, people want to connect with their role, employees should have a safe space to express their opinion and have pride in the work they do. Companies can aim for sustainability focused policies – and be open to continuously reorganising these policies with the changes in time.

As part of this strategy, Perspektiv have introduced policies that encourage employees to volunteer, take adventure leave and participate in active commuting (to list a few). Perspektiv also actively measures employee engagement through Culture Amp (and more importantly acts on feedback from the app) which signals to employees that their voices are heard, and ideas valued.

Understanding that your employees are your greatest asset and asking for their thoughts and opinions about what is working well and what improvements could be made, can help you to make a workplace the best place to work that it possibly can be!

I would hope this starts the conversation and gradually rises to those influential people who can make the right decisions to accelerate a diverse, inclusive, healthy, capable and flexible workforce and value chain that will leave a positive legacy for people and the ever growing industry we belong to.


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