Article: 90% AtkinsRéalis employees are aware of the firm's ESG initiatives - VP HR explains how

Leadership Development

90% AtkinsRéalis employees are aware of the firm's ESG initiatives - VP HR explains how

83% of this organisation's employees acknowledge its sustainability leadership, while 90% feel well-informed about the company's sustainability and ESG efforts. What are the benefits of green awareness, and how do we get there?
90% AtkinsRéalis employees are aware of the firm's ESG initiatives - VP HR explains how

Green initiative awareness plays a pivotal role in shaping organisational culture, fostering environmental stewardship, and driving sustainable practices. In today's world, where climate change and environmental degradation pose significant threats, raising awareness about green initiatives is crucial for both businesses and society at large. 

Firstly, heightened awareness encourages individuals within organisations to adopt eco-friendly behaviours in their daily activities, such as reducing energy consumption, minimising waste, and adopting sustainable transportation options. This collective effort contributes to reducing the organisation's carbon footprint and environmental impact. Secondly, green initiative awareness can enhance brand reputation and competitiveness. In an era where consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious, businesses that prioritise sustainability are viewed more favourably. 

By effectively communicating and promoting green initiatives, organisations can differentiate themselves in the market, attract environmentally conscious customers, and strengthen brand loyalty. Moreover, being perceived as an environmentally responsible company can attract top talent who are drawn to organisations aligned with their values and principles. 

Furthermore, green initiative awareness fosters innovation and drives business growth. By encouraging employees to think creatively about sustainability challenges, organisations can uncover opportunities for efficiency improvements, cost savings, and product innovation, emphasised Somnath Bhagavatula, Vice-President, Human Resources – India & Asia Pacific at AtkinsRéalis. 

In an exclusive interview with People Matters, he explained that employees who are well-informed about green initiatives are more likely to contribute ideas and solutions that promote sustainability throughout the organisation's operations, supply chain, and product development processes. 

Excerpts from the interview: 

How do you define sustainable leadership, and what role does HR play in fostering it?

In its true sense, sustainable leadership refers to the practices, beliefs and the systems that result in creating positive value for all stakeholders — in the present and future. In modern terms, sustainable leadership focuses on creating long-term value and success by leading initiatives that add to the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda of the organisation. 

At AtkinsRéalis, ESG is core to our business activities and we constantly strive to improve our own sustainability performance through the way we conduct our business, influence others and advise our clients. One such example is linking ESG targets to employees participating in our Annual Incentive Plan (AIP). Furthermore, our efforts in giving back to the society through AtkinsRéalis India CSR initiative, involve fostering a culture of value and engagement that empowers employees to volunteer in several social impact activities making them feel a sense of belonging to the organisation. 

Having said that, with companies in need of leaders who can balance the short-term goals while prioritising the long-term ones and focusing on social and environmental concerns, the role of HR becomes pivotal in shaping the organisation’s culture. It begins from ensuring foremost that there is commitment from leaders and integration of sustainability into the organisation’s purpose and vision. When employees see their seniors leading by example, they are likely to embrace and adopt these behaviours, thereby attracting and retaining a purpose-driven talent force. 

How to ensure that leaders at all levels embody and promote sustainable practices within their teams?

The core of an organisation's sustainability journey begins with its purpose, fostering relatability, accountability and ownership at every level. At AtkinsRéalis, our purpose of 'Engineering a better future for our planet and its people' drives us to create sustainable solutions, connecting people, data, and technology to design and deliver some of the most complex projects around the world. 

Today, leaders need to ensure that the employees feel heard and cared for, hence integrity, wellness and safety, both from a project and from an employee perspective is the building block of creating a sense of belonging. Leaders also play a pivotal role in driving sustainability through embracing diverse perspectives, cultivating innovation across teams and empowering them with the right knowledge and tools to further implement sustainable practices across their activities. 

For instance, our volunteer activities as part of CSR initiatives are not just about giving back to the community, they are also about personal growth. It gives our employees the chance to participate in decision-making, working in cross functional groups for a cause and collaborative teamwork, step out of comfort zones and accomplish tasks that promote sustainability.   

This is brought to life at AtkinsRéalis through our various CSR programmes for e.g., we conduct afforestation drives as part of our social impact program and encourage employees to lead by taking charge, delegating, collaborating in teams through various activities that drives a sense of purpose and community outreach. 

This not only helps them develop professionally but also engages them in sustainable practices. Our internal VOX survey shows that the sense of purpose among our employees has increased over the years. Also, employees engaged in CSR activities and aligned with the organisation’s purpose tend to stay longer with AtkinsRéalis. This remarkable retention speaks of the pride and fulfilment our employees experience by being part of our social impact initiatives.

What challenges have you encountered in promoting sustainable leadership and driving social value within your organisation?

Underpinning AtkinsRéalis’ culture is a clear purpose and authentic employee value proposition that serves to retain, motivate, and inspire our teams. We are constantly working towards communicating the importance of sustainable practices with our employees across levels to help them embrace sustainability as a core value. Over the years, we have also played a pivotal role in supporting our employees in pursuing their passions to engineer a sustainable future for the planet and its people.

While it can get challenging to instigate a cultural shift among employees towards sustainability, it is equally rewarding when we observe that the more activities and engagement initiatives we undertake, the more staff we are able to attract. Each year, as part of our annual employee engagement survey, we include questions related to our sustainability initiatives and use the scores and feedback we receive from them to continually refine our commitment to being an organisation with a purpose. 

As per our 2023 internal VOX survey, 83% employees acknowledge our reputation as champion for sustainability, and an impressive 90% of employees feel well-informed about the organisation's endeavours in sustainability and ESG. These results affirm our dedication to engaging and inspiring our workforce in meaningful ways.

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How has your personal leadership journey been influenced by the principles of sustainable leadership and social responsibility?

‘Giving back’ sustainably under the umbrella of social responsibility has always been my passion. My personal leadership journey has got accentuated by the work I have been doing around AtkinsRéalis India CSR program and related community initiatives. One such initiative where we have witnessed a positive impact is the AtkinsRéalis Academia: Building Bridges program where we carry out multiple affirmative initiatives for students with lack of access to quality education. 

For example, we conduct training programs, educate the students about technology related tools and give them the right exposure to gain skills required to grow their career. Over the last two years, we have trained over 80 students and employed more than 40 students within our organisation. 

Additionally, our collaboration with NGO partners has been yielding positive results. In my periodic field visits, I get to firsthand witness the impact that AtkinsRéalis and the NGOs are making in the communities where we operate – be it in transforming rural schools or enhancing teacher education, addressing the issue of accessibility of technology in rural schools or in working with communities around sustainable initiatives like water harvesting, establishing solar panels or conducting afforestation drives. 

My leadership journey has been enhanced with each of these touchpoints where I have been able to gain inspiration from the community leaders who have positively impacted many others and infused a sense of purpose in the community initiatives. There’s still so much to learn from the work these leaders do.

What specific leadership practices or behaviours do you believe are essential for driving social value?

While the foundation of a shared purpose and vision help in driving an organisation’s outcomes and goals; building the right leadership competencies and capabilities are also equally essential in paving the way for a resilient tomorrow.

At AtkinsRéalis, innovation, inclusivity and integrity have been our essential attributes driving social value. Our leaders embrace innovation and have an adaptive thinking style that helps them navigate smoothly during dynamic circumstances. Additionally, leaders practicing inclusivity, often embrace differences and view them as strength, ensuring everyone’s opinions and ideas are heard and valued. 

The most important component of good management, good leadership and good stewardship is making sure you have diversity of the mind. Furthermore, integrity is a non-negotiable trait for sustainable leadership as every decision needs to be grounded in ethics. The ethical leadership also focuses on creating psychologically safe environment for communication and knowledge in the teams thereby enhancing a sense of empowerment among employees. 

To put this into facts, our inclusivity practices involving several social impact initiatives and employee engagement programs have had a positive impact on the brand as they reflect our leadership values and show that we deeply care about our employees.

What are your organisation's future plans and priorities for advancing sustainable leadership and social value creation?

Our corporate purpose and values at AtkinsRéalis drive how we deliver value to customers, manage resources and innovate. From designing sustainable and smart cities to delivering nuclear power stations and transforming manufacturing systems, we focus our business in the areas that have the most impact on the way we all live and the resources we demand from the planet. 

Engineering Net Zero (ENZ) is one of our global priorities and sits at the heart of our organisational strategy. As part of our ESG targets, we are constantly striving to meet the global demand for clean energy, decarbonising the built environment, developing sustainable and smart cities and building resiliency to climate change impact. Our CSR initiatives in India are one of the many ways that we aspire to create social value and make meaningful differences in local communities especially in the education, ESG and equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) sectors. 

While AtkinsRéalis Global Technology Centre has been recognised as a Great Place to Work in India for the past three consecutive years and is also among the top 25 India’s Best Workplaces in ED&I, we further aim to be the ‘Employer of Choice’ in our sector by rightfully investing in our employee value proposition and focusing on enhancing employee experience. This can be achieved by ensuring that our work is informed by the personal experiences of our employees and endorsed and accredited by ED&I partners wherever appropriate in the coming year as well.

We are proud of our inclusive, diverse and energised work environment and share an open culture founded on our values: safety, integrity, innovation, collaboration and excellence. As an organisation we have always been about quality, but as part of our pivot to growth strategy, we needed an anchor and a value that ties it all together. Hence, excellence is a strategic move to propel us forward and it is now a core value that has been introduced in 2024, standing alongside our other values.

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Topics: Leadership Development, Culture, #ESG, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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