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#SAPRadio What You Missed on HR & Sustainability: Bridging the Gap

On a recent show, we cited the well-known adage, “Hindsight is 20/20.” We’ve been told that the picture of how we got here is much clearer when we’re looking back, after the fact. But this doesn’t mean we can’t make informed decisions today to ensure our survival tomorrow. You know where I’m going with this, right?


“Sustainability” is a hot, trendy business practice, and actually a must to if you want to attract top talent to your organization. But are you really putting your money where your mouth is? It’s not enough to drive a sustainable brand and merely talk about it. It’s even more crucial how your company acts in order to drive your people to support practices that will ensure your profitability for the next 25 – if not the next 100 years.

Everyone loves short-term profits, but a one-time win decision that later creates an avalanche of negative social impact will steer you in the other direction all too quickly. That’s why employees need to believe in sustainability not just as a popular side project, but also as the corporate DNA. Without inspiring your workforce to act always with the future in mind, the “coolness” of being a sustainable company is really just…a PR stunt.

Hear experts Andy Savitz, CEO of Sustainable Business Strategies and author of Triple Bottom Line; Barbara Wichmann, CEO, Artemia Communications; and Peter Graf, former Chief Sustainability Officer at SAP to envision a future where we can all survive and thrive, profitably. What’s your corporate sustainability strategy? Listen to the on-demand podcast here.

Top memorable insights from this episode:

  1. Sustainability equals meeting the needs of today without sacrificing the future generations’ needs. You can’t go about creating wealth without thinking about creating a hole too big for our children to dig themselves out of. Corporations thinking: how do we allow those sustainable values from home to take place at work? –Andy Savitz @AWSAVV
  2. Three things: 1) Balance short and long-term profitability 2) Drive different types of behaviors 3) Prosperity. Transformation is a huge opportunity, where companies are changing the game. The CEO must be on board. –Peter Graf @PeterGGraf
  3. Sustainability also requires a program of culture change. There needs to be a balance of incentives balancing the short and long term. –Andy Savitz @AWSAVV
  4. People are not looking for a job. They’re looking for purpose. Not just lip service and PR.–Peter Graf@PeterGGraf
  5. HR is often overlooked – it’s just too easy to throw it up and say it’s too big of a problem. If you’re a value-based organization, you will attract like-minded employees. Lots of opportunities at small-to-medium business level, especially. –Barbara Wichmann @ARTEMIA_Comm
  6. At (the time of) hiring, we have to tell people how we are part of the solution that is changing the world. –Andy Savitz @AWSAVV
  7. Companies have different strategies – wrong. We need an integrated [annual] report with sustainability as a priority, not just a sideline. Sustainability is really about creating long-term value for the company for short-term profitability. Sustainability doesn’t happen just from the top, but a movement that needs to be in every process, especially HR. –Peter Graf @PeterGGraf
  8. It’s already being done by large enterprises: sustainability training to trickle down to the smaller businesses. Walmart has a sustainability index. They look at petroleum use and greenhouse gases, then combine it with HR initiatives. Sustainability has become the trend of the year. BUT we can’t just make it an add-on. Who’s to say what it is? We need to have standards and deliverables that can be measured and it will have an opportunity to evolve into corporate social responsibility. –Barbara Wichmann @ARTEMIA_Comm
  9. Over the long run, the only way you create value is through your employees. It trickles down the supply chain…and smaller companies are asking us, how do we do this “sustainability thing”? –Peter Graf @PeterGGraf
  10. We must create that picture (of sustainability) in people’s minds to engage them. Like our ride-sharing program. It had slowed at first, but we reframed an incentive for getting drinks after work. Our CEO uses it, too, and (now) people blog about it! –Peter Graf @PeterGGraf

Top #CrystalBall Predictions for 2020:

  1. Education is going to be all virtual, ongoing, and everywhere. The future is already here, just not distributed equally yet. Every company will drive a sustainable brand. It is evident that companies that have more diversity and inclusion have more sales. Software will be ubiquitous and drive the sustainability efforts. –Peter Graf @PeterGGraf
  2. My concern is on a global level – China & Brazil. How can we share our technology – our successes – with emerging economies, without policing? I believe this will be the greatest challenge. –Barbara Wichmann @ARTEMIA_Comm
  3. My hope is that we won’t need this conversation anymore in 5 years. We don’t want a separate strategy, nor talent. We almost want a Venn diagram of HR, business, AND sustainability. These circles will move closer to convergence. –Andy Savitz @AWSAVV

The next episode of HR Trends with Game-Changers Radio explores Does a Degree Matter? Unique Talent Dynamics in the Bay Area with a panel of HR thought leaders and experts. Stay tuned and please follow us on Twitter at #SAPRadio @mikegmontalban @bizbreakradio.

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      CSR (corporate social responsibility) without HR is simply PR - overheard at recent Sustainable Brands'14 conference in San Diego.