Deloitte: Increased Pressure to Improve Human Sustainability

The cover of 'The important role of leaders in advancing human sustainability'. Credit: Deloitte
Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence’s new report finds that 80% of CEOs feel pressured to improve human sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, it often centres around the environment. Whilst driving decarbonisation and combating global warming is crucial, human sustainability also can’t be forgotten.

In recognition of this, Deloitte has collaborated with thought leadership and research agency Workplace Intelligence for the third year to survey 3,150 employees, managers, and C-level executives across the US, UK, Canada and Australia in a report titled ‘The important role of leaders in advancing human sustainability’.

The headline? About 80% of CEOs feel pressured to improve human sustainability.

Deloitte’s definition of human sustainability is the degree to which an organisation:
  • Creates value for people as human beings
  • Equips people with greater health and well-being
  • Supports them with stronger skills and greater employability, good jobs and opportunities for advancement
  • Makes progress toward equity
  • Supports increased belonging and heightened connection to purpose

The pressure comes from all areas: 

  • Employees: 82%
  • Customers: 78%
  • Investors: 78%
  • Partners: 77%
  • Board members: 77%

“Embracing human sustainability can have benefits for both business and people,” says Paul Silverglate, US Executive Accelerators leader and Deloitte's US Technology Sector Vice Chair.

“Today’s C-suite has the opportunity to help ensure it is prioritised at the highest levels of their organisations, helping them become more rewarding and productive places to work.”

Paul Silverglate, US Executive Accelerators leader and Deloitte's US Technology Sector Vice Chair

The response from leaders seems very encouraging – 88% would like their pay to be tied to human sustainability metrics and 71% believe their company’s leadership should change if they aren’t advancing human sustainability.

Three quarters of the leaders identify human sustainability as an enterprise risk that should be measured and monitored and discussed at the board level.

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Differing responses from leadership and staff

The response outside of leadership however, tells a different story. Whilst 82% of executives believe their company is advancing human sustainability, only 56% of workers agree. 

Leadership seems to have a wholly different perspective of the impact of work, with nearly all leaders believe that working for their company has a positive effect on employee well-being, skills development, career advancement, inclusion and belonging, and their sense of purpose and meaning – and less than 60% of staff agreeing.

Around one out of three workers say their physical (34%), mental (32%), financial (35%) and social (31%) well-being improved last year.

Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner at Workplace Intelligence

“It’s promising that so many of today’s leaders are willing to take ownership of human sustainability,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner at Workplace Intelligence. “However, some executives don’t realise that their own employees are dealing with a suboptimal work experience. The disconnects uncovered in our research should be a call to action for leaders as they embark on their mission to create greater value for all stakeholders within the broader human ecosystem.”

The road to increased workplace wellbeing

The statistics speak for themselves – workers want their organisations to increase commitments to human sustainability. Of the workers surveyed

  • 72% say if their organisation increased its commitment to human sustainability it would improve their overall experience at work 
  • 71% say it would increase their engagement and job satisfaction
  • 70% say it would increase their productivity
  • 70% say it would increase their desire to stay with their company long-term
  • 69% say it would increase their trust in their company’s leadership.

“There is an incredible momentum building for organisations to make meaningful change,” added Jen Fisher, retired Managing Director at Deloitte US. 

“But leaders should move away from a legacy mindset that centres on extracting value from people and instead embrace the concept of human sustainability, which can support the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organisations and society.”

Jen Fisher, retired Managing Director at Deloitte US

Whilst 82% of executives say companies should be required to publicly report their human sustainability metrics, 81% admit their own organisation isn’t doing enough when it comes to making public commitments around human issues – and 32% say this is because the goals they could realistically accomplish are trivial and they’re embarrassed to make public commitments around them.

In better news, a significant majority of executives would like their compensation to be tied to human sustainability metrics and 61% of the C-suite say they’d accept a pay cut to work for a company that is advancing human sustainability.


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