Integrate Employee Engagement into Your Sustainability Efforts
I’m Curious About How People Fit into Your Plans.
- Innovation thrives. Instead of a few people thinking about opportunities to reduce waste, you’ve got hundreds or even thousands of minds on the problem. And that means more ideas as well as more willingness to try those ideas—so you are able to accomplish more, faster.
- HR is easier. Employees—especially millennials and the Generation Zers following them—want purpose-driven work. More than 8 in 10 want to help their employers achieve social and environmental goals (the statistic is 7 in 10 for all workers). So engaging everyone in sustainability makes work more fulfilling, reducing turnover.
- Increased profitability. Engaged employees miss less work, make fewer errors, and deliver higher quality outputs. All of that correlates to higher profitability.
- Enhanced corporate reputation. Can you image the impact if even half of your employees talked about the great stuff you were doing to reduce resource use? Suppose each employee told just one other person—a spouse, friend, or family member—about one of your successes. How could that affect your local reputation? What if some employees shared your accomplishments with friends on social media? In addition to being brand ambassadors your employees can be ambassadors for your sustainability efforts via their networks.
- Accelerated sustainability. In addition to all the long-term benefits outlined above, engaging employees around sustainability can yield immediate reductions in resource use.
- Compelling, plain-language stories about corporate successes—instead of talking about the reduction in energy intensity, share “we saved enough electricity to power 500 homes for a year.” This approach benefits from a little testing, which will help you develop memorable examples that cause people to tune in, not tune out.
- Clear evidence that others are adopting sustainable practices too—humans are social creatures and we take cues from our peers. So, make sure employees see examples of what others are doing right. You can create a virtuous circle of actions by recognizing and celebrating accomplishments.
- Proof that actions matter—motivate people by showing them how their small actions add up. “The district saved $150,000 in energy costs last year, which enabled us to add four part-time aides at the middle school.” “The savings from our anti-idling campaigns enabled us to invest in two electric vehicles at the warehouse; those vehicles improve air quality in the warehouse while further reducing fleet costs.”
- Two-way dialogue—as much as you need to share information you also need mechanisms to solicit ideas and feedback. Encourage people to submit ideas for increased energy savings and respond to the ideas submitted.
- Fun—which can be as simple as having people earn stickers by being part of the solution. (Really, adults like stickers more than you think.) When you make things fun you increase the likelihood that people will talk to each other about what’s happening, and conversations can uncover shared values, further accelerating momentum around sustainability.
Have you found an especially helpful way of engaging employees in your sustainability efforts? Please share it in the Comments section – it can help others in our community who realize that it’s time to make employee engagement a priority.
About the Author - Guest post: Kathy Kuntz, Executive Director of Cool Choices
Kathy Kuntz is the Executive Director of Cool Choices, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that inspires individuals, communities and businesses to adopt sustainable practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cool Choices collaborates with private businesses and public entities to engage employees around sustainability, promoting changes at work and at home via a fun and online platform. Since 2010 Cool Choices has inspired thousands of individuals in hundreds of organizations to adopt more than half a million sustainable practices..