Whether brands are aligning with a cause, assessing the environmental impact of their operations or going to market with new green products, there’s one important group of stakeholders they shouldn’t overlook: their employees.
Employees aren’t just the suppliers of expertise or facilitators of transactions. They are an essential part of a brand, particularly in industries with a customer or client service component. From the team behind the counter at a quick-serve restaurant to a specialist at a professional services firm, employees are responsible for making a brand come to life with their every interaction.
For this reason, a brand needs to be much more than just a framework for external communications, as noted by Ruchika Joshi of Interbrand. If a brand is to successfully convey its promise, it needs to inspire employee engagement and provide guidelines for employee behaviour.
This is not an easy task. A brand is much more than a logo, tagline and set of customer promises. A brand must also reflect a company’s strategy for coping with a changing society, one where the public expects business to be accountable for a growing list of environmental and social issues. When employees buy into their employer’s brand, they are by default buying into its sustainability strategy.
And, in truth, no brand could successfully pursue a sustainability strategy without the support of its workforce. Brands depend on employees to align company operations with corporate values. As explained by the National Environmental Education Foundation, employees make decisions everyday that can have sweeping environmental and social consequences for a brand. Or, to put it more simply, in today’s marketplace, “all jobs are green jobs.”
Engaging employees in sustainability issues isn’t just good for the health of the brand. It also has an impact on recruitment and retention, particularly among the next generation of workers.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that 88% of Millennials will choose employers whose social responsibility values reflect their own – and 86% would consider leaving if the company’s values no longer matched their expectations.
In fact, a third of CEOs decided to take action on sustainability issues specifically because of the impact on employee engagement and recruitment, according to Accenture’s 2010 CEO Study.
Establishing a sustainability strategy and getting employee involvement quickly becomes a virtuous circle for a brand.
A clear sustainability strategy signals to the marketplace that this is a brand with longevity in a world where supply chains are under increased public scrutiny and any misstep quickly ricochets though Twitter. Employees are then attracted to companies with a progressive stance on environmental and social issues. And those engaged employees will ultimately build a stronger brand.