In the business world, sustainability continues to be a growing concern among companies big and small – from a few operational changes, green initiatives can have a big impact on the bottom line, and present a good incentive for customers and clients to choose one company over another. One of the biggest “hidden” impacts of sustainable business practices, that some often don’t see, is the positive effects it can have on employee morale. By bringing increased motivation, job satisfaction, and camaraderie between employees, working sustainability into a company’s culture can boost the attitudes of workers. In essence – it feels good to do good, and to work somewhere that does good.
Before employees can benefit from sustainability-focused operations, however, they need to be engaged with it. There are a variety of practices that can help to do this, and below are five key steps and tips that will get employees involved with green practices.
Set long-term purpose
Before any large-scale practices are implemented, employees like to understand why. Why does the company want all these new practices introduced? What do they want to achieve? Leaders should discuss this question and pass answers on to employees. For the best effect, try to make a broad social statement about improving the office, company, local area, or the environment. Whatever it is, make it the focus of your plans going forward. By giving workers a larger goal to work towards, be it quantitative (reduce waste across the company by 50%) or qualitative (reduce the impact of office operations on the environment), you can give them an emotional reason to engage in the process, and a sense of satisfaction at every step that works towards this goal. By thinking about the social purpose of the initiative, and the company, employees can feel they’re contributing to that higher-level, collaborative effort, and feel meaning in everything that they do.
Make employees part of the process
By creating dialogue with your employees throughout the process of introducing and implementing sustainable practices, you can help the workforce to become more invested in the process. Discuss with employees their individual attitudes to green initiatives, and understand what would help them to get involved. Ultimately, only your employees can tell you for sure what they want. Be sure to feedback regularly to employees with statistics, encouragement, and congratulations, and keep dialogue open to any suggestions or thoughts.
Encourage healthy competition
With any set of goals and initiatives, the most effective way to encourage involvement is with a bit of healthy competition. Many sustainability indicators are easy to quantify – carbon emissions, waste, and paper use are three examples – and comparing the efforts of teams of employees against each other can be a great way to acknowledge success and encourage improvement. Additionally, consider inviting teams of employees to submit plans for new initiatives or sustainability projects, enacting or funding the best ideas submitted.
Everyone should be a champion
The key to implementing sustainable practices is to have leaders supervising the rollout. However, it is not enough to just have these sustainability leads at the top of the chain – every employee must be encouraged to champion the sustainability efforts, at every level of the company. For example, retailer Marks and Spencer has sustainability leads in every store that ensure messages on sustainability are delivered to all employees not from higher-ups, but from someone they know well already. Encourage every employee to be a champion of sustainability values, so everyone is surrounded by excitement around the initiative.
Understand different attitudes & engage differently
This is an often-overlooked aspect, and one that’s very important to maximise employee engagement and satisfaction. While there are many methods that will work for a large number of employees, there is a wide range of attitudes that people can have, and a wide range of different types of people who will respond differently to any efforts. Some employees will jump head-first into the new processes, and others will find it difficult to change their established behaviour. By implementing a process involving multiple different employee engagement methods, you can see what works best for your employees. Some companies might use surveys and focus groups among employees to establish new ideas, and others might use competitions or open discussions. Furthermore, some employees respond better to a competitive approach to implementing sustainable practices, and others will be happier if the company is treated as one entity. Ultimately, you need to find what works for your company and for your employees – if what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be engaging employees well enough, try another approach.
By involving employees in your company’s sustainability practices, you can help to implement a plan that works both for the company and for its workers. By doing this, you can not only improve your company’s bottom line and reduce its environmental impact, but boost employee morale and attachment, too.
A great way to measure the positive impact of your company’s sustainability practices is by analysing your carbon footprint. This information on carbon emissions can be used to feed back to your employees, congratulate achievement, and encourage further improvement. If you have any questions about Carbon Benchmarking, or would like to speak to us about your organisation’s carbon emissions, get in touch via our contacts page.