For many companies sustainability is a critical success factor. But how can managers actively foster and promote the topic of sustainability in their company? In this interview, I will be interviewing Tor Eneroth on the topic of sustainability.
Tor believes that organisations work better when leaders are focused on building conscious, values-driven cultures for the wellbeing of their people, society and all life on earth. Tor works as an independent consultant committed to collaborating with people who share the same passion to consciously create conditions for a more sustainable way of life today, tomorrow, together.
Andrea: Welcome. I’m really happy to have you here. Thank you.
Tor: I’m happy to be here.
Andrea: We talk about sustainability. I have known you for a long time now, but can you introduce yourself? Who you are and why you are you talking about sustainability?
Introduction of Tor Eneroth
Well, first of all, the question who I am is a very difficult question. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for the last 60 years, to be honest, but saying that I’m living in Sweden and working globally, so to speak. And I’ve been working with culture for about almost 30 years in large global organisations. So, who I am in terms of professional life is really coming from a space of working inside of organisations to grow culture over many years. Lately then my focus has changed towards sustainability because I realised that culture and values and consciousness has a lot to do with sustainability, so that’s the shift on the later years.
What would you like to tell us about sustainability in general?
You start with very big questions to me. But first of all, I think that it’s very well known, it’s starting to be a global notion, so to speak, that we are at a point of no return. As a consequence, we have to do something and we can’t just wait anymore. Furthermore, more and more people are in organisations are understanding this. So it’s a movement in that sense. But if you ask me what I would like to tell you about sustainability it is the connection. However, I’m not going to talk about the sustainability goals because I think that’s an excellent description of what is actually needed for humanity at this point in history.
That is something that I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert in. But what I think that I’d like to tell you about is, it demands our own consciousness, our individual consciousness. But it also demands courage for us to stand up against the norms that we are living by in our lives today. However, it’s not a call for action by a few that do big things. That is also good, but it’s really everyone can contribute to a more sustainable world.
The biggest hinder to become more sustainable
In addition, I would also then say that it’s our unconscious ego and our ego needs like greed and selfishness and maybe apathy. That is the biggest hinder or obstacle for us to become more sustainable. So my connection to sustainability is really in a world of the unknowing that we are not aware of, that we are not actually contributing to a sustainable world, but becoming more aware that we can start to contribute each one of us. I would say that the race that we are up against is not a competition of who is going to win. In fact, it’s more of a race of collaboration where our biggest enemy is the battle against your inner demons, your own fear of not getting your basic needs met.
What has been your biggest inspirational moment regarding sustainability so far?
Yeah, we are all conscious. It’s more a matter of what we are conscious about and how wide we are in our consciousness. I think that one of the biggest inspirational moments was actually coming up when it comes to sustainability after working with customers for so many years, we had a question from a dear colleague in PwC in the Netlands, Wendy van Tol, who actually approached me and Phil Clothier at Barrett Values Centre at that time and asked us, “is it possible to connect values to the sustainability goals because our clients are asking more and more regarding that.
Is it possible to use our values to see how sustainable we are?” And that was really interesting and also something that spoke very much to Phil and me at that point. As a result, started off and tried to connect the values to the 17 goals, and very quickly we came to the conclusion that that’s not possible because many values are connected to many of the 17 goals. But then we were also pointed at the direction of United Nations 5P, which is an extension of the triple bottom line.
The 5P Model
The 5P is people, prosperity, peace, planet and partnership. Moreover, we looked at that dimension, we realised, and that was really an inspiring moment. We realised that it’s possible to connect our values to those five dimensions. And by that we were able to display the level of sustainability that your organisation has. You can see the focus you have on people, on prosperity, on planet, on peace and partnership. Thus, you were able to see where is the area for our improvement and what is holding us back from the sustainability point, that was a really inspiring moment.
Then we were able to unlock that. But there are also a number of inspiring moments that I see in leaders like Paul Polman, former leader of Unilever, for example, reaching out, challenging our way of thinking, Richard Branson challenging our thinking. But we also have consultants like Clive Wilson that I have been very inspired by and Richard Barrett with his global sustainability goals or global wellbeing indicators that he has developed. It helps us to see things from a new perspective, help us to get a language for what could be done and challenging our way of looking at the world at this moment, so to speak, that’s really inspiring.
Why is sustainability such an important success factor?
The first thing that comes to my mind is that our children children will not have the world to live in if we don’t do anything about it. That’s a very good driver for me. That our is not mine, my children only it’s our children and their children. We consume the world in a pace today that doesn’t make it possible for them to have a place to live in. So that is one rival.
The more short term reason for why sustainability is important and the success factor is that if you take investors in companies where you have the possibility to grow and develop as an organisation. The investors are getting more and more focused on how can they invest their money in sustainable businesses, businesses that take care of the world, that take care of the scarce resources that we have, that think about the environment. All those aspects are becoming more of where do we invest our money? And that, of course, has an impact on our businesses as well, ability to grow.
Is the company contributing to a more sustainable world?
And because we need money to grow our businesses as well. But also, if you can say investors is one group, customers, we as individual clients, also are more concerned. Is this product a sustainable product? Are we using the resources well? And it’s not only how we impact the environment, but also how we relate to others, like are we using child labour to do the production? How is the transportation system?
It becomes more and more consciousness around that, and we choose our products to minimise those type of non-sustainable impacts. And I would even say that we as employees look at who would we like to work with? Is the company contributing to a more sustainable world? That is also a very important factor for us when we choose who we would like to work with, or we attract more people by that, so to speak. There are many aspects why it is important to work with sustainability. Not for the fact only that it’s for our next generation, but also for us to be able to attract and get money and sell our products.
What can leaders do to foster and value sustainability in a team?
Andrea: Sometimes they do not know what the company is doing or how they can start with this topic in their teams.
The first step, I would say, is to start to work with themself. Who am I? What is my purpose in my life, so to speak? And how do I contribute to a better world? Am I sustainable, am I creating a sustainable environment around me, am I creating a sustainable society in which I’m a part of? Do my decisions impact also the world and the scarce resources that we have?
Starting by understanding that. What I mean by then, starting to work with themselfs is really to be a beacon for a more sustainable world today by their actions for tomorrow, together. And together is there because they have to also recognise that they have to invite people around them to be part of a journey going forward to make a difference in the world.
How sustainable am I as an individual?
We have to collaborate, as I said in the beginning. But the other thing, more practically, would be to invite their team members, their people around them, to talk about all of the values and behaviours that they live by each of the team members and how that is impacting them, so they can become sustainable as individuals and how we can work together to become more sustainable. And here’s something that Phil and I have become very clear about. If I am not as a human being sustainable myself, let’s say I’m afraid of not getting enough, I would do things. I will be greedy. I will make sure that I get as much as possible. That is not going to be good for the common good for the whole and by focusing on that.
I’m not sustainable because of that value, because of that fear of not having enough, or if I’m excluding people not relating and inviting people collaborating with people, for example. So it all starts with me becoming aware of how sustainable am I as an individual and in my decision making, so to speak, in my priority. That is becoming more aware of your being in order to voice yourself and put demands outside. Furthermore, it’s very difficult to start to put demands on the world outside and around you if you’re not aware of it yourself. So that’s why you have to start inside of yourself.
Andrea: And one part is sustainability. The other one is personal development, being able to do more team work, collaboration.
How can I experience that as a team leader with my team? What can I do?
There are many dimensions of becoming aware inside of yourself. And one is who am I? What is my purpose? What is my contribution? Is the world becoming a better place because of my being? Do I have the possibility to impact myself or impact the world around me because of my thinking, because of my belief, becoming conscious about that and that could be and that’s coming back to walking the talk. I own that myself. I can create decisions or create awareness around my own being. That makes me walk the talk, so to speak and show in my daily decision making that I am truly trying to be more good and contributed to a more sustainable world.
In my point of view, it is maybe the biggest one, because that is very inspiring to see people around you. And then, of course, the leaders they are truly thinking about it, judging that in the decision making and speaking about it. And so that has a big impact, because what we are looking at. What are the actions? What are the actual things? Can you prove that this is happening? That’s good. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on that. But I like this statement.
I read that in the Human Development Report for 2020 of the UNDP United Nations Development Programme Achim Steiner the administrator has written something that really spoke to me.
We need to move from value what we measure because we identify what we measure to instead measure what we value.
And the world today is very much focused on valuing what we measure. However, not so much measuring what we truly value.
Awareness is the key
But when you start to understand that you become more aware of my actions because my actions are coming from my needs, which is expressing my values and thereby my decisions which I prioritise. Thus, by becoming aware of your own values, you become more aware of, does that have a sustainable impact on me and the world around me. That’s what’s more the individual dimension. But then, of course, that will then multiple into a team dimension, a collaborative dimension. And that is to invite my team to have a similar type of conversation.
So I have a possibility to have a conversation. What is important to me in my life today? What are my needs? And have a reflection about that together with your team. That is the starting point. By that you empower each of those individuals to be able to act in a more sustainable world or a more sustainable way. And then more practically, we are going to share those tools, so to speak. Hopefully at the beginning of next year on a website for everybody to download, questions that you can ask yourself regarding how sustainable you are as an individual. How sustainable we are as an organisation. And how do we, as an organisation, contribute to a more sustainable world outside of our own organisation?
What can I do? – Examples
We can share that on a later occasion. And if somebody would like to have that before, they can then reach out to you or me. Thus, we can share that with them. So it’s open. It will be an open source. But the third thing that I come to think of what a leader can do to foster sustainability in their teams. It’s also maybe because as a leader, you also have the possibility to make priorities of what we should focus on and what we practically need to do. And it could be that many organisations, specifically organisations, that have been focusing on innovation, have a day or three days every month or something like that to play with things that they can do to innovate, so to speak.
And 3M, for example, that’s how they develop the Post-it notes. For example, it came out of that, but I also see that why don’t we have a free day every month for people to be able to contribute to a more sustainable world and do whatever they think is possible? And if you combine that with the possibility to talk about what is important to you, what are the values? What do you want to do? You not only help each individual, but you also help the team or the organisation to make much more of a sustainable impact on the world, each one of us, so to speak.
That’s what came to my mind, a long answer to what they can do. But I think the first point, to summarise what I’ve said, is start with themself. Further, invite others to be part of it and then inspire to do action.
What is your most important tip for people who want to do more for sustainability?
It’s very similar here. But what I would like to add, I mean, of course, you need to review what are your values and your priorities and ask yourself: Are my values contributing to a more sustainable world? That’s more creating consciousness about your own drivers and your own needs. But I would also include the important tip here. It would also be coming back to your purpose.
My purpose is connected to energetically, you could say, it could be connected to satisfy my basic needs, but it could also be connected to my transformational or my common good needs as well or aspirations. So it’s more of maybe I need to revisit what is my purpose in my life. And that is a question that continuously needs to be nurtured and questioned. But the question I ask myself, is the world a better place because I’m in it. If you ask yourself that question it becomes: No, maybe not. And then the next step will then be okay. What can I do practically in daily things that I can do to contribute. And there are loads of inspirational sites of what you practically can do.
The United Nations has even for the personal perspective and there are other organisations who are working with practical tips. It’s more about becoming aware of what are my daily actions. What are my patterns, habits, that I have, that are not contributing to a more sustainable world. And what can I do to be more sustainable? And again, it comes back to my purpose and my values that drive that. That is something that everyone who would like to work for a more sustainable world and become more sustainable has to do.
It starts with that consciousness and that inner journey.
Do you want to add anything else?
You asked me this question and of course I started to think there are so many good initiatives in the world today. I’ve even come to some who have expressed sustainability as a buzzword today. Well, thank God it is. Let’s see, how can we develop our understanding of what sustainable is? There are these big questions. How do we reduce hunger? How do we have clean water? I mean, all the things here, how do we partner for the sustainability goals? I’m just taking a few of the 17 goals.
Those are excellent. And there are a number of sub goals under these as well, which are very practical tips. But if we, as individuals are not working with ourselves and not having that on our radar, in our consciousness, it’s not going to happen. It will be a few doing some work. Therefore, we need to inspire people around us. And I get very enthusiastic or optimistic, I would say. Because I meet more and more leaders who believe that this is a very important topic not only for the company, but it’s important for the world.
Moreover, important for our generations to come, that we need to make decisions that are helping ourselves to empower us and to be able to create that sustainable world. And I get more and more leaders and organisations that are stepping up and taking a very proactive step. When I thought about this conversation with you, my main message is really, we have an individual internal journey to do and thereby start.
How everyone can contribute
Sometimes I have this metaphor or an illustration. If I stand on a big football court or a field and then around me I have stands for spectators. And there is one guy up on the spectators and I am standing in the middle of the field. And if he or she calls my name, I can barely hear that person. But if the whole spectators, everyone was saying, “Hello Tor!” at the same time, it will be overwhelming. And that’s how everyone can contribute.
But when everybody is doing it in the same way and starting to do that by themselves together, that’s where the big impact comes. And I think it’s a very similar situation. It’s not about doing these big things that are good, sustainability by a few. It’s more of the big mass doing everything that we can in our daily life that will have a massive impact on a more sustainable world.
Andrea: I think we covered all what you can do as a starting point. What is my purpose? It’s inner work, develop your own consciousness and get together with other people who think in the same way. And there are a lot of people outside right now who are keen to start working on sustainability. That’s the way we will move on.
A movement – the Inner Development Goals
I have one more thing that I’d like to say as well. There is an organisation, I wouldn’t even maybe call it a movement, that is called the Inner Development Goals. They have researched and tried to find out what is the inner development goal? What are the things that we need to develop inside of us? And they found five different categories and it’s really aligned with what I’m talking about here as well.
And that’s, becoming more aware of our own being. That’s one of the five categories. In addition, each one of these categories have subcategories as well, describing behaviours and ways of thinking. The second one is the thinking, being the skills. What are the cognitive skills that I need to be able to possess and to create a more sustainable world? And the third thing is more how do I relate caring for others. But then the fourth one is how do we collaborat, the social skill, to work together . Then the last of these is, how do we drive change and how do we act?
Sometimes we would like to have a reference to start with. However, you don’t need that, but it helps for me to get some inspiration on what that is. That’s research based as well. It’s an open website that you can go into and look at. So that would be one thing. But then, of course, I think that just doing the values assessment that Barrett Value Centre offers is another way to start a conversation. And you have the free personal values assessment that you can take to start that conversation.
So there are many ways, but getting some inspiration of that in a journey is probably a good starting point as well.
Andrea: Thank you, Tor.
My personal conclusion after the interview with Tor Eneroth
Tor has a very interesting and inspiring perspective on sustainability and the role of team leaders. Everyone can contribute to a more sustainable world. Sustainability begins with your inner journey, by reflecting about your own needs and values. Furthermore, to make a difference in the world you need to invite peopel around you.
In addition, you can find the interview with Tor Eneroth on Youtube: Interview with Tor Eneroth about Sustainability.
Also, I also interviewed Markus Kristen about the topic sustainability. You can read about his opinions in my blog article Interview mit Markus Kristen zum Thema Nachhaltigkeit (Teil 1) and Interview mit Markus Kristen zum Thema Nachhaltigkeit (Teil 2).
How to get in touch with Tor Enroth
Tor Eneroth | LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/toreneroth
You can download the book Growing a Culture for Sustainabilty on the amcara.life Webpage.