Creating a WORLD of Difference


Employee Wellbeing and Sustainability Under One Roof

Share Article:
a woman leaning on a rail looking at her cell phone

We all agree that people and the planet matter, yet, organisations have often considered these pillars separately.

Sustainability is about planetary concerns, supply chains, and environmental stewardship, while employee wellbeing is about mental health, meaningful work, and respectful interaction.

Dr Louise Lambert and Aziz Mulay-Shah of Happiness Matters, show how working in the overlapping space between sustainability and wellbeing, may generate greater yields for both.

Employee wellbeing

A focus on employee wellbeing has arisen as organisations realise that burnout, mental health issues, absenteeism, poor workplace relationships, and sick leave are not conducive to organisational success.

Instead, finding ways to humanise work, improve relationships, build greater trust, and offer pathways to human dignity are emerging as routes for organisations seeking productivity and profitability gains, as well as innovation and workforce loyalty. Much evidence supports this work.

For instance, a meta-analysis (Krekel et al., 2019) of 339 studies with more than 1.8 million employees from 49 industries in 73 nations found that greater employee satisfaction with work (that is, with managers, co-workers, and one’s tasks) was strongly correlated with customer loyalty, productivity, and profitability.

More recently, De Neve et al. (2023) examined 1600 American firms and showed that company-level employee wellbeing measures predicted firm profitability, with companies at the highest levels of wellbeing outperforming stock market benchmarks. The employee wellbeing space, along with managerial and C-suite wellbeing is well attended to; yet a gap remains.


From technological and scientific advances, net-zero standards, supply chain adjustments to shifts in investment and ESG reporting schemes, much organisational work has been done towards sustainability. Yet, save for the odd beach clean-up, most developments have also been divorced from employee experiences.

Studies (Wellcome, 2022) show that eco-anxiety undermines individual wellbeing and mental health. Eco-anxiety is an unexaggerated response to humanity’s greatest existential challenge: dealing with unknown and cataclysmic outcomes that threaten our survival and for which there are currently no easy or cheap solutions.

As individuals become more aware of, and experience the impacts of climate change, anxiety alongside depression rises. Yet, studies (Lawrance et al., 2022) also show that a path to reducing eco-anxiety, gain a sense of existential control and build wellbeing is to take climate action, with employees who already have high levels of wellbeing in optimal positions to care about the planet and the wellbeing of their societies. Where better to align this need than with sustainability efforts?

The Magic In Between

Organisations can play a role in not only helping to reduce the effects of climate anxiety for employees but provide opportunities for climate action that can strengthen their sustainability platforms. Climate action at its most basic level is about people and the actions and decisions they take.

As solutions emerge, the will of individuals to act on those solutions will be key and organisations can benefit from these actions. Indeed, it is to their benefit to do so.

As employees look to their organisations to see what they are doing to help the planet, many are ready to leave organisations that do not align with their environmental values (World Economic Forum, 2023). Recruitment and retention efforts could also benefit as employees also seek to work for organisations that take care of their wellbeing.

What Can Organisations Do?

Sustainability has too often been positioned as the purview of climate scientists and supply chain managers, while wellbeing has been co-opted by Human Resources and mental health specialists. Yet, both implicate the development of a good life, which depends on a secure planet.

Organisations can explicitly make the ties between wellbeing, climate action and sustainability clear for employees. By providing training and resources on sustainable practices, climate change impacts, and individual actions that can make a difference – just like they would for mental or physical health – organisations can help employees understand the organisational, as well as personal, road ahead.

Imagine a scenario where employee wellbeing initiatives become the bedrock of a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy

Beyond training, organisations can also align wellbeing initiatives that target employees to Corporate Citizenship initiatives. Imagine a scenario where employee wellbeing initiatives become the bedrock of a Corporate Social Responsibility strategy where employees are encouraged to develop, plan, and implement sustainability projects for the community at large.

Another possibility is to encourage employees, indeed the entire workforce of a company, to think about issues like reducing their carbon footprint. There are examples in the marketplace of tech solutions that enable individuals to offset their Scope III emissions by committing to doing physical exercise (walking instead of taking the car) or purchasing new carbon credits to offset their daily carbon footprint, as examples. The potential for large scale climate action becomes clear if corporate programmes built around such initiatives can be developed.

Reinforcing this link with avenues for employees to contribute ideas, take ownership of projects, and engage in sustainable actions can build a sense of initiative and action, life purpose and connection to the organisation’s sustainability mission, driving their overall wellbeing.

Establishing a wellbeing and sustainability committee with representatives from all parts of the organisation can cement the links between mental health and wellbeing and a connection to nature. Actions to support both agendas can include working from home, making meat-free catering the default, waste reduction strategies, parking space buy-out programmes, more responsible sourcing, strategies for active commuting, and office based biophilic designs, as examples.

If organisations are to be effective in protecting the planet and winning the hearts of their employees as they do, being value clear about going ‘all in’ on both agendas will be key.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

Follow Wellbeing World

Sign up to our newsletter

Fill out the form below to get all the latest straight to your inbox!

Search Wellbeing Providers, Articles & More...