Rethinking sustainability 

At NKD we’re motivated by making the world of work better, but we also know that this can’t happen without taking care of our planet first.

Explore what leaders can do to embed sustainability at every touch point.

The wellbeing of our planet is a critical concern in our modern world. As business leaders, we have a huge part to play in reducing environmental impact and contributing to a greener, fairer tomorrow. 

At NKD, we know that ESG is at the top of many of our clients’ agendas, and for good reason. We have an obvious and increasingly critical moral imperative to protect our planet, but it’s also proven that sustainability initiatives contribute to an organisation’s overall success. Whether that’s qualitative successes, being known as an eco-friendly, values-driven company, or financial, research from the Harvard Business Review demonstrates that sustainable businesses see greater profits than their non-sustainable counterparts. 

A commitment to sustainability should be evident in every aspect of business, including company learning initiatives. With the right strategy, your learning and development can offer support to your sustainability goals, and not work against them.

What does sustainability in Learning & Development look like?

It’s common to associate sustainability with simple measures like reducing plastic straws and paper usage. While these small steps are essential, true sustainability goes beyond immediate changes. It requires thinking holistically and long-term. 

Putting the sustain in sustainability 

Sustainability can’t happen in a vacuum. ESG strategies must be comprehensive, long-term approaches encompassing environmental, social, economic, and organisational aspects to ensure lasting impact and continuity. When investing in ESG and considering the impact of learning and development within wider sustainability strategies, we recommend prioritising protecting the ‘four P’s’— peopleperformance, profit and planet.

Protect your people

Your people are the cornerstone of any strategy, and it’s impossible to build a sustainable future without investing in them. Companies that nurture their people, allowing them to thrive, are setting up an environment in which teams will have a positive effect on society by excelling in their roles and providing exceptional customer service.

“Some simple ways companies can make an impact on people—and serve future generations—include ensuring fair hiring practices and encouraging volunteerism in the workplace. They can also look externally to effect change on a larger scale. For instance, many organisations have formed successful strategic partnerships with nonprofit organisations that share a common purpose-driven goal.”

Harvard Business School

Protect your performance

To be sustainable, we need to think outside the box when it comes to workplace learning. 

In reality, how we learn effectively at work isn’t confined to a one-off session in a workroom with a flip-chart. People thrive through social learning, whether from a colleague who is an expert in a particular subject, self-directed learning on an engaging Learning Management System, or simply problem-solving peer-to-peer on Slack.  

These social learning techniques don’t have to drain company resources, time, and money. All of our NKD solutions include an aspect of social learning because we know that it helps ideas stick. By incorporating more social learning and less resource-heavy training, you’re upskilling people in an eco-friendly way that actually resonates.

Protect your Profit

Investing in sustainable learning isn’t just a matter of addressing current needs, but anticipating future demands. By building a digital learning strategy, you’ll save money, time, and the planet–it’s really that simple. 

With businesses feeling the squeeze, competing priorities and tighter budgets can mean that learning and development initiatives are moved down the agenda. Yet, with increasing staff turnover rates, a decrease in employee engagement, and widening skills gaps, it’s crucial to prioritise the growth of employees for a sustainable future. This investment needs to be future-fit, reusable and have lasting ROI (Return on Investment). 

Embracing digital learning allows you to build a sustainable learning journey that’s engaging, reduces reliance on physical resources, and can reach a large number of people quickly. Having a digital offering also reduces the impact of face to face learning. It’s a long term investment that has real impact – like it did when we worked with IAG Cargo (see below). 

Protect our planet

Create a set of simple rules for your team to follow. Small, simple rules over time will lessen environmental impact and keep people accountable, weaving sustainable thinking into everyday tasks. 

We partnered with IAG Cargo, a company committed to sustainability across all business units, to support them in making their vital in-person learning sessions more environmentally friendly. Through simple rules, we improved their offering, making it future-fit and in line with their eco-friendly values:

Resourceful recycling  – All workshop resources were designed to be reusable with handouts double-sided, an easy way to reduce wastage over time. All the handouts were uploaded onto their Learning Management System for colleagues to access digitally.

Simple switches – We swapped flip-charts for whiteboards. This simple switch saves reams of paper from the landfill. Additionally, we used Evo walls instead of pop-up banners for their recyclability, ease of transportation, and storage.

Digital add-ons – On top of in-person training, we helped IAG boost their L&D offer with some digital self-led and virtual sessions for a comprehensive, and eco-friendly, learning offer. 

Multigenerational thinking – IAG used examples and learning methods that connected with their diverse, multi-generational workforce. Creating sustainable content means being clever with fewer, better words to minimise re-work and considering if references will date or if photos will become obsolete.

Sustaining sustainability is complex; it requires holistic thinking and long-term commitment to ensure it remains a strategic business imperative. Yet, your learning and development programmes don’t need to set you back. With smart planning, simple switches, a focus on your people and embracing digital technology, the benefits to people, profits and the planet will start to fall into place.

If you’d like support to improve your company’s learning and development offer and ensure that sustainability is considered at every step, get in touch with one of the team.