A company’s sustainability journey should follow a roadmap that confronts everyday hurdles, says Yogesh Chauhan, Director of ESG at HubSpot
Today’s uneasy global backdrop of conflict, volatile economy and the impact of climate change has brought into focus the perceived tension between the need for purpose-led decision making to create positive change for the future, and short-term impact to help manage the immediate crisis.
But just like our environment, communities, and the policies and regulations within which we operate, working to build a sustainable future is ever-evolving. Despite the immediate challenges we may face, in HubSpot’s Culture Code we say “no product is ever done” – and the same must be said for an organisation’s sustainability journey. For a successful ESG initiative to withstand the future, long-term commitment and constantly applying new lessons are critical.
In the spirit of this thinking, HubSpot has released its latest Sustainability Report to monitor our ESG progress and goals and build a company future generations would be proud of. Here I’ll discuss how customers and clients are shaping targets and what businesses can do to prioritise long-term ESG impact.
Driving collective climate action with authentic purpose
Today’s consumers are taking back control when it comes to companies they believe have acted inappropriately on environmental or social issues – research from EY has shown that more than half (54%) are reducing or stopping their purchases entirely with those brands.
For a company to last, purpose must be a priority. This purpose means ensuring we, as a business, are resilient and add value for our employees, customers, shareholders, and the planet. At a time when employees are looking for personal value and purpose in their work, there’s an opportunity for companies to reinforce how employee contributions and behaviours are fundamental to making a real impact.
We have over 7,000 employees at HubSpot and more than 150,000 customers globally, so our potential for meaningful change is tremendous. But we must ensure every employee is engaged with our mission and united by a common purpose.
From introducing educational resources to setting challenges that encourage sustainable actions across the business, passion for the environment has brought HubSpotters together to take action for the planet, one behaviour change at a time. Communicating our progress to date, as well as our evolving trajectory, is central to our environmental strategy and ensuring employee buy-in. In fact, beyond their employees, companies today have a significant power to influence those around them – not just their direct stakeholders but any organisation or individual they come into contact with. Beyond their immediate circle of influence, there are also customers’ customers downstream. Upstream, there are the suppliers of vendors, or even the suppliers of suppliers.
From sources of energy to raw materials and labour, there’s a lot organisations can do to drive more sustainable practices in ways that extend to their circle of influence – something I continually encourage myself and other leaders to consider when setting out their ESG strategies.
A strong culture and equitable employee experience
An organisation’s purpose and values can have a considerable impact on an individual’s sense of self-worth: research from Qualtrics has shown that three quarters (73%) of employees agree that they feel motivated to work beyond what is expected of them due to their company’s mission, vision and values.
Companies need to walk the walk around inclusion too, by striving for equity in everything they do. But what does this look like? At HubSpot, when employees feel a sense of community and belonging, when systems and practices like hiring and professional development are unbiased, when we ensure equal access to opportunities for everyone, and we give back to our communities – only then have we created a workplace environment with equity at its centre.
Employers must be prepared to listen. From growing and retaining a diverse workforce to promoting employee wellbeing and development in a hybrid world, our culture at HubSpot is built on understanding what our employees want most from employers today: autonomy, transparency, flexibility and a commitment to diversity.
Helping millions of organisations grow better requires a truly remarkable team. So, enabling employees to bring their best selves to work – whether that’s fostering meaningful connections remotely or ensuring office facilities and technology support a hybrid environment – it all hinges on our efforts to create an equitable experience for everyone.
"Companies need to walk the walk around inclusion too"
Regardless of where an organisation is in their ESG journey, creating a culture that’s truly inclusive and prioritises employee experience is critical for lasting impact.
Practising good governance isn’t a solo act
Every aspect of ESG will continue to evolve to meet our environment and society’s changing needs; therefore, tracking progress must be critical to the strategy. Staying abreast of policy and regulation changes is one area businesses must be particularly attuned to.
According to UK government statistics, almost third of businesses report a cyberattack occurring at least once a week and the average cost to the business ranging from £4,200 to £19,400. But it’s not just the financial cost of a breach that companies need to worry about – in terms of reputation it can have a huge impact on attracting and retaining customers. Protecting customer data is the foundation of trust, and sustainable governance practices need to be in place if companies are to survive. Yet, with the regulatory landscape continuing to change – from GDPR to the latest cookie policies – security must be at the top of the business agenda if organisations are to adapt, while keeping customer information secure.
But this can be an arduous process, especially for smaller companies with fewer resources. Here, professional, third-party support can help ensure data protection is compliant with the latest regulations, while allowing employees to focus on other areas to drive the business forward.
At HubSpot, we’re investing in customer trust by being transparent about how we use data, building controls and choice, and keeping data safe and secure. We also recognise the importance of building a board that’s as diverse as our customer base to ensure we have a range of perspectives and opinions that help us solve our customers’ most pressing challenges. Again, our circle of influence expands beyond those we directly work with. We’re committed to adopting policies that ensure everyone – from employees to our partners and suppliers – conducts business ethically and sustainably.
Purpose must be at the centre of all activity – whether it’s externally communicating how your company’s mission aligns with its core values, or creating an environment where employees feel comfortable and inspired to live their purpose at work. With this comes a commitment to embrace change. Being driven by purpose means holding all goals accountable – acknowledging when things are working, and adapting when they’re not.
Highlighting success is key to building morale and encouraging further progress, but a company’s ESG trajectory is its North Star – this should guide their overarching direction in the face of everyday hurdles. It means building better and that there’s always more to be done to create tangible, sustainable impact for everyone.
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