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Remaining Authentic in the ‘Greenwashing’ Era

24 May 2024

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Story by
Ann Chambers HR Director, Ecotone

The green rotating earth that represents renewable energy and sustainable energy sources that is important to the world

Ann Chambers, HR Director, Ecotone discusses how her organisation ensures it delivers on ethics.

The world is changing, and with it, the workplace. We might feel uneasy about transformation, but what I see is an inspiring shift towards values that matter. People want to make a positive impact. This is why sustainability attracts like-minded candidates in the recruitment process.

In my experience, candidates are particularly impressed by companies with a strong purpose, vision, and sense of direction. Words such as ‘organic’, ‘natural’, or ‘biodiverse’ tell people who you are as a business, and what you stand for.

In the current climate, prospective employees expect businesses to deliver a considered CSR strategy, alongside seals of approval from respected partners including the likes of B Corp, Fairtrade, and the Soil Association. Outside of this, there’s more to be done on the ground to truly engage teams – and draw solid staff retention.

Engaging your workforce

Our people are a key part of our purpose, and we consider our internal ecosystem to be just as important as the external. People are often taken out of the equation when talking about protecting biodiversity and climate issues. For us, the two are symbiotic.

In the era of greenwashing, it’s all too easy for companies to proclaim ethical choices without backing up their claims. I often hear about candidates’ personal passion points and desires to make a difference, such as reducing waste or using less plastic. This really resonates with our business at Ecotone and our core mission to produce food that actively nourishes nature – to protect it for future generations.

We engage our workforce through our activities with various charities and organisations such as the Sumatran Orangutan Society, Soil Association, RSPO, and Fairtrade. This is always a topic of interest, especially when prospective employees can get involved themselves.

We offer varying volunteering options at Ecotone centred around a ‘family feel’, bound to our local community. The connection through our brands allows our team to get really stuck in and build a sense of camaraderie. Part of our volunteering work involves My Big Career takes a similar tack. By investing our time to teach disadvantaged young people from our local community about the food and drink market, and biodiversity, we’re fostering a generation of change-makers in the long-term.

Powerful partnerships

As a B Corp – and the world’s highest scoring multinational food company with 116.5 points – we’re constantly tracking and reassessing ourselves to ensure we’re making progress against our goals and continue to make a positive difference to people and the planet.

Through our Ecotone brands, a firm responsibility is intertwined in delivering products that are trustworthy. Part of this involves investing in meaningful partnerships that both help us stay accountable and serve as a seal of approval to consumers and employees.

It’s important to us that we nurture powerful partnerships between each individual and our company. When we look ahead to our long-term goals, our team are a part of that future. This is why we’ve invested in our people’s wellbeing. In introducing the Flourish platform over the past few years, we dedicate regular sessions to tackling vital wellness areas affected by modern society. This covers support with sleep, nutrition tips, navigating the menopause, or encouraging an open dialogue about mental health. 

It’s invaluable to our team members who get to volunteer their time with incredible charities and organisations as well as to share their expertise.

To truly make a difference as a business, we must consider ESG as a complete loop. We attract top tier talent at Ecotone so naturally, we want to foster this.

Freedom for flexibility

Candidates appreciate a personal approach. At Ecotone, we take this beyond flexible and hybrid working to personalised career development discussions. Through offering our employees bespoke roles and promotion opportunities in a time-frame that suits the individual and without a typical tiered procedure and the added bureaucracy that comes along with it, we ensure we can cater to every individual’s needs. We never want our team to feel pigeon-holed in one particular role or job, so we keep this an open dialogue which creates added freedom and we have had great success in moving people across the business and into different roles.

We give full autonomy to our teams – providing complete trust in all they do and helping them overcome issues as they arise to support with learning and growth. It’s important to give colleagues at all levels the ability to ‘own’ their own projects and give them room to think creatively and bring forward fresh perspectives.

‘Trust’, ‘honesty’, and ‘authenticity’ are qualities I hear a lot from individuals as they’re looking to be recognised for the unique human beings they are. In an inclusive and engaging environment, this is where they can thrive.

Personal achievements

We’re guided by our team and encourage feedback on how we can improve. After all, everyone has a voice to be heard and we want to hear them! Many of our initiatives are a product of listening to our employees, particularly our Health Champions – who are dedicated team members who collect this feedback from the wider team and feed it back to us.

From this, we offer people the choice to get involved in initiatives without pressure and we invite our team to join in and co-create ideas. This is so that our employees can let us know whether they feel we could be doing more – which might be anything from joining the stands at Trade Shows to supporting local schools.

We like to highlight personal achievements, which we echo in our monthly newsletter to all staff members. But the biggest ‘win’ and one which gives the greatest energy are for activities where people have made a suggestion, seen it come to fruition, and enjoyed the difference it has made to their lives, their colleagues lives, or to our partners such as suppliers, charities, and other members of our Ecotone family.

Remaining authentic

Candidates are looking for their workplace to reflect their values. Amid rife greenwashing industry-wide, it’s important that companies showcase their added value, without overlooking the wellbeing of individuals alongside the wellbeing of the planet. The backing of recognisable organisations from B Corp to Fairtrade are powerful in this space – but it’s vital that the dedicated values they encapsulate are echoed in the workplace.

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