Do employees value corporate sustainability?

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People value more that which they are an active part of, which makes it difficult to believe that employees would value corporate sustainability efforts if they are not actively engaged in it.

It seems rather obvious to suggest that people give more value to that which they help create, build or are an active part of. This phenomenon is also known as the IKEA or endowment effect, a double edge sword that can nonetheless teach us a valuable lesson in engagement. 

Companies, however, don’t necessarily seem to be making an effort to fulfill or develop such reality in their corporate goals, including sustainability. But if science is right, actively involving employees in sustainability will make them more effectively engaged.

employees sustainability

Do employees value corporate sustainability?

It is a bit tricky to answer this question, because on one side, employees do value sustainability, in fact, it is an increasingly important factor for people looking for a new job, and it is almost indispensable for younger generations entering the job market.

It is definitely important for employees that their respective companies take care of the environment and society. But we could argue this is not enough, it is solely the surface level of a much bigger problem: the lack of engagement.  

But there is enough evidence to suggest that actively involving employees in the goals and targets of the sustainability strategy of the company can increase overall engagement metrics, improve sustainability performance, and make employees value corporate sustainability efforts more highly. 

The IKEA or endowment effect

Although these two concepts vary slightly in their definition, they both derive from a very similar premise: the way we value things is directly linked and proportionate to the level of implication we have on a given matter or action.  

Let’s start from the beginning, understanding the endowment effect; it refers to the idea that people value more highly that which is their own compared to that which does not belong to them. It is a cognitive bias based upon the fact that people (as consumers) are more prone to think on what they loose, rather than what they gain.

The endowment effect inspires a sense of ownership or personal connection to a product that makes us more willing to pay more for something, or sell it a higher price. This of course is used by many brands that take advantage of such feeling, but, as we’ll see later, there is something positive to take out of it. 

employee sustainability

The IKEA effect follows a similar logic and premise; it stems from the latter company’s idea to make people assemble their own furniture, making them value it more. It refers to the idea that people value more highly that which they help create or put their time and effort on. 

Similarly to the endowment effect, it is a double edged sword, as companies can take advantage of this very special phenomenon and charge more than what’s technically fair. But if we look passed business ordeals, we can actually find a very valuable lesson in engagement and human psychology. 

Engage employees in corporate sustainbility

Engaging employees goes beyond just handing them a list of practices or lessons, in fact, it should be a two way communication process, where employees have the opportunity to co-create such practices and lessons.

Following the endowment effect premise, this could mean, for example, opening a channel for employees to put their sustainable ideas, initiatives or projects on the  table for them to be reviewed and eventually applied and funded when applicable. This can also be a means to avoid distrust on the projects or initiatives set out by the higher management levels of the company, which in turn diminish engagement. 

skills for sustainability

We need to take into consideration the fact that embracing a new set of goals or a big change of paste inside the company is not always easy, nor fun; but, following the iKEA effect premise explained above, an effective way to foster cooperation towards change could mean creating a culture of healthy competition that at the same time encourages creativity and people’s individual skills.

It is also a matter of flexibility and independence that helps willingness grow as well as finding new ways in which to work collectively in the achievement of the given goals. 

In DoGood we advocate for the importance of making small but meaningful changes in our everyday life in order to find purpose and a more healthy relationship with what is around us. 

Through our technology we help companies establish ESG impact objectives for employees in regards to the sustainability strategy of the company. We are able to activate and track employees’ impact, creating engagement that translates into improved ESG metrics, reputational value and an overall positive impact for the environment and society.

The sustainability culture guide

How can a company start building a sustainability culture across the organization?