… towards a sustainable future
Improving Sustainability Skills and
Knowledge in the Workplace
Final Project Report
Dr. Joanne Tippett
Lecturer in Spatial Planning
Farnsworth, Dr. Valerie
Le Roux, Ebenhaezer
Mann, Dr. Pete
Sherriff, Dr. Graeme
July 31, 2009
Improving Sustainability Skills and Knowledge in the Workplace Research Project Funded by the SCI, University of Manchester Executive Summary
In 2007, Sir Terry Leahy set the stage for Tesco to become a leader in creating a lowcarbon economy, saying: “We are going to have to re-think the way we live and work”. This SCI research has developed a new way to understand sustainability, one that has the power to inspire a positive and creative vision for the future. It has explored ways that Tesco staff at all levels (from the checkout to senior management) can enhance their knowledge about sustainability and develop skills to take positive action. The continuing aim of this action research is to embed sustainability in the working culture of Tesco, and to gain insights into how this might be achieved in other organisations. This research started with the recognition that current ‘going-green’ measures are not enough. They slow down environmental damage, but do not provide a positive vision for a change in direction. More scientifically-informed and holistic visions for sustainable communities and organisations are needed, together with the skills to create and realise these visions. In this nine-month research project, we talked with 105 members of staff in Head Offices and Stores to learn from the success of Tesco, and to explore how staff understand and learn to apply sustainability. A clear commitment to sustainability was found within Tesco, but also a lack of clarity about what constitutes sustainable practice, and Tesco's role in achieving this. Whilst there was clear interest in sustainability, analysis of staff feedback suggested that implementing sustainable practices poses challenges in terms of skills and understanding. A pilot learning initiative, informed by a wide range of sources, was developed to address these challenges.
This creative work led to a more accessible way of thinking about sustainability as a positive vision for the future. This became known as the‘RoundView: Guidelines for Sustainability’. The RoundView, piloted in this research, supports leadership and vision on the scale necessary for people and businesses to thrive now and into the future. We developed new visual and hands-on tools to make it easier for anyone to understand and apply these ideas, and to explain them to others.
Fifty two staff members attended three pilot courses delivered between April and June 2009 at Cheetham Hill Eco-Store and both Head Offices. We gathered data from participants and analysed the potential for this new learning initiative to enhance understanding and skills, and to enable positive change towards sustainable practices. The response from participants was generally very positive. Comments included: “Learnt lots more than I thought. The systems approach was new and helpful and the principles were clearly explained during the courses.” “I thought I knew how it worked before, but I was wrong.” “Roll this out across Tesco now!”
“…It has made me think about what Tesco does and how I can start to think / become a potential agent for change.”
“…The whole world needs to make the changes now. I am surprised how much I have changed my work and personal life with the knowledge I have.” It is not easy to change people’s behaviour. This project added to the body of knowledge about how people can develop and apply sustainability skills and understanding, a question of vital global significance. The next phase will explore how to scale-up the initiative. Improving Sustainability Skills and Knowledge in the Workplace, Project Report, 31/07/09, www.sci.manchester.ac.uk
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