Small Actions, Big Difference: Why All of Us Must Take Ownership of Sustainability to Save the World

CB Bhattacharya, University of Pittsburgh

CB Bhattacharya’s research is motivated by the “someone else’s problem” syndrome, where in most companies, no one wants to take ownership of sustainability. This is a recipe for failure. In contrast, companies such as Unilever—where sustainability ownership is high and sustainability is “everyone’s responsibility”—have demonstrated both superior sustainability and financial performance as well as high employee engagement, retention, reputation. “Sustainability ownership” is a psychological construct, broadly defined as employees’ feeling of possessiveness and connection with sustainability that in turn drives sustainable behaviors. That is, if every organizational member does his or her “small” part for the planet and its people, the collective impact can be “big”. Based on 100+ interviews with CEO’s, middle managers, factory workers across 25 global companies (e.g., BASF, IBM, Nestle, Unilever), CB Bhattacharya will provide a framework that shows companies how they can build sustainability ownership and engage their entire stakeholder base in their respective sustainability journeys.



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