With workplace dynamics evolving over the past three years and a greater focus on corporate purpose, the people component of sustainability has now become a more important factor in the overall sustainability agendas of organizations.

At SAP, people sustainability is defined as treating people – within an organization’s workforce, across their supply chains and in the communities in which they operate – ethically and fairly. We define it through six core pillars: health and safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), well-being and balance, trust and transparency, empowerment and growth, and organizational purpose and corporate social responsibility.


New People Sustainability Research Sponsored by SAP

While many organizations still think about sustainability primarily from an environmental perspective, they need to address people and economic sustainability as well.

From May to August 2022, SAP sponsored IDC to conduct a study to discover if investment in people sustainability could drive positive business outcomes. IDC surveyed more than 3,500 employees and business leaders across 11 countries and four regions.

The result was resoundingly positive: the research suggests that a focus on people sustainability can not only impact an organization’s performance but positively affect economic and environmental outcomes too.

In fact, 84% of organizations in UK&I believe that investment in people sustainability can drive better business performance. Respondents believe that investment in people sustainability can improve job satisfaction, employee engagement, and a company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) score. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that respondents feel that organizations can gain a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining top talent.


A Holistic Approach to ESG

The survey concluded that a holistic, unified strategy is required. 80% of respondents in UK&I surveyed found that addressing people sustainability topics through a single, unified strategy is valuable.

One CEO said: “I don’t think these pillars exist separately. The [people sustainability] framework is helpful to make sure you’re covering the terrain, but in my experience, every entry point…leads to the other.”

That said, there are challenges to this approach. The main concerns of respondents related to employee engagement, ESG reporting, and articulating the value of this approach.


Behaviour Change and Better Technology Required

To pursue a people sustainability framework, 75% of respondents UK&I believe a cultural shift is required at all levels of an organization, including at the leadership (77%), manager (80%) and employee level (77%).

While most respondents are satisfied with their firm’s ability to track and measure progress across all sustainability pillars, investment in more tools and technology was cited as essential for supporting a metrics-driven approach to people sustainability initiatives.


The Future of People Sustainability

With increased competitiveness in the job market, a growing skills gap, and growing pressure to address inequity and climate change, organizations need to look at their sustainability strategies holistically. Investment in people sustainability will fuel positive outcomes across the organization.


Read the IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP SuccessFactors, “Investments in People Sustainability Drive Positive Business Outcomes” (IDC Document #US49724322) and join the People Sustainability Research webinar with IDC on October 27, 2022.

From May through August of 2022, IDC conducted qualitative and quantitative studies of employees and business leaders across multiple countries and industries; 2 focus groups in the U.S., 16 in-depth interviews with executives across 3 regions, and a survey of more than 3,500 employees and business leaders in 11 countries across NA, EMEA, APAC, and Latin America.