Sustainability at Work: The Importance of Intersectional Frameworks and Collaboration in ESG Initiatives

January 3, 2024 | Reskilling Your Workforce | 6 min read

Organizational intersection and collaboration are extremely important for building and understanding many inclusion and equity initiatives, including Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG).

And while an organization’s ESG program must reflect its corporate strategy, it can be strengthened by the inclusion of a range of employee voices. As business leaders, it is our job to promote an intersectional approach to help turn valuable ideas into actionable change.

Learn How One Energy Data and Intelligence Company Approaches Sustainability

As part of our Sustainability at Work series, where we speak with sustainability professionals about the skills and competencies that they bring to the job and what’s trending in sustainability right now, we interviewed Whitney Eaton and Gabriel Rolland from TGS, a global energy data and intelligence company headquartered in Norway. During the conversation, we heard about how they approach sustainability and ESG at their organization.

As the executive vice president of people and sustainability at TGS, Eaton’s role is intrinsic to the company’s ESG program. With a background in law and anti-corruption compliance, she joined TGS with the understanding that she would be running the global compliance department in the organization. As part of compliance, the company incorporated sustainability reporting into her responsibilities, and she oversaw updating and implementing a sustainability strategy for TGS.

Rolland is vice president of corporate QHSE at TGS. With a background in geography and QHSE (Quality, Health, Safety, and the Environment), he has held many roles within TGS. He was approached by Eaton as soon as he became responsible for QHSE to aid in the development of the ESG program at TGS and build the foundation for an internal ESG work group.

From the onset, the goal of TGS’ ESG program was to determine what, exactly, ESG meant to the company; and then, to formulate a strategy that reflected these values. In his own words, Rolland described the beginning stages of their progress as “setting our vision around ESG and how we could make the most of it.”

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The Importance of Intersection and Collaboration

Eaton told us: “When I look for sustainability professionals to support my organization, I always start internally first.” She knows that sustainability isn't new. It's simply a different view into company strategy – and it is accessible to every employee who cares to participate.

“I think that roles with a cross-organizational perspective – those that collaborate across teams – are great for sustainability,” she said. Since not many job seekers come from a strictly sustainable background, sustainability roles require a person to have translatable skills.

These might include:

  • Communication: Sustainability professionals need to effectively communicate sustainability goals, strategies, and progress to internal and external stakeholders, such as employees, customers, investors, and the public.
  • Problem-solving: Sustainability roles often involve identifying and addressing environmental and social challenges, such as reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, or ensuring ethical sourcing. Problem-solving skills are critical in finding sustainable solutions to these issues.
  • Time management: Efficiently managing sustainability projects and initiatives, including setting and meeting sustainability targets and deadlines, is crucial for achieving long-term sustainability goals.
  • Leadership: Sustainability leaders and advocates play a key role in driving sustainability initiatives within an organization. They need leadership skills to inspire, guide, and engage teams and stakeholders in sustainability efforts.
  • Critical thinking: Sustainability professionals must critically evaluate environmental and social impacts, assess risks, and make informed decisions about sustainable practices and investments.
  • Adaptability: The field of sustainability is constantly evolving, with new regulations, technologies, and best practices emerging. Adaptability is necessary to stay current and continuously improve sustainability efforts.
  • Data analysis: Sustainability roles often involve collecting and analyzing data related to environmental and social metrics, such as energy consumption, water usage, waste generation, and community engagement. Data analysis skills are essential for measuring and reporting on sustainability performance.
  • Customer service: Building strong relationships with customers or stakeholders who prioritize sustainability is important for organizations seeking to attract and retain environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Project management: Sustainability initiatives often involve managing complex projects, such as renewable energy installations, waste reduction programs, or sustainable supply chain management. Strong project management skills are essential for these efforts.
  • Research skills: Sustainability professionals may need to research emerging sustainability trends, technologies, or best practices to inform their strategies and decision-making.
  • Technical skills: Some sustainability roles may require technical skills in areas such as renewable energy systems, environmental modeling, or sustainability reporting software.
  • Financial literacy: Understanding the financial implications of sustainability investments and cost-saving measures is essential for developing business cases and securing resources for sustainability initiatives.
  • Creative thinking: Innovative solutions and fresh ideas are often necessary for addressing sustainability challenges and finding new ways to improve environmental and social performance.
  • Interpersonal skills: Collaboration and teamwork are critical for sustainability professionals who often work with cross-functional teams, supply chain partners, and external stakeholders to achieve sustainability goals.

Eaton shared some advice for anyone looking to get into sustainability: “It’s crucial that you understand what your organization does—not just what they do today, but what they want to do in the future—and understand how that intersects with the other work that is happening across the company.”

That’s why training is such a crucial aspect of making sure employees are able to get involved and contribute to sustainability initiatives within their company. Understanding, managing, and mitigating risk as part of an effective compliance training program goes hand-in-hand with creating value through ESG initiatives, and having an intersectional team makes it so that a multitude of perspectives and professional opinions are represented in your strategy.

Employee Engagement Is Critical

According to research, 77% of consumers are motivated to purchase from companies committed to making the world a better place. But, sustainability also gets your employees engaged.

Effective sustainability strategies invite all employees to play a role – making them feel like they’re proactively contributing to something beyond the bottom line of the business. Eaton described sustainability as “something that reinvigorates and generates excitement within your workforce.”

It’s a great way to develop your workforce and give people an opportunity to contribute differently. For example, TGS has been picking up marine debris through its operations around the world. Recently, the company took one step forward to highlight these efforts to a bigger audience and show their employees and consumers how they’ve been successfully working on this sustainability and environmental initiative over the years. Employees and stakeholders were thrilled to see the real-world output of the company’s sustainability initiatives.

Furthermore, TGS recently placed solar parking canopies in the employee parking lot. This idea came from an employee suggestion and helps power the company headquarters as well as provides energy back to the Texas power grid.

Sustainability Initiatives Are a Two-Way Street

Rolland said that sustainability “definitely starts from the top” to set the vision and message, and then trickles down through the rest of the organization. That’s why it’s important for leaders to be open with employees, providing them with opportunities to share new ideas they’d like to bring to the table to improve ESG strategy and vision or sustainability initiatives in offices and out in the field.

Creating a dedicated ESG committee for your organization is vital in elevating and prioritizing ESG issues within an organization. Additionally, it facilitates transparent communication of ESG performance to stakeholders, promoting trust and attracting possible investors, customers, and talent.

To hear all about Eaton and Rolland’s sustainability initiatives at TGS, watch their video today! And, make sure to check out the rest of the Sustainability at Workseries for more insights about sustainability in the workplace and beyond.