Are folks inside your organization aware of your sustainability efforts?
Years ago I met a relatively new Corporate Sustainability Officer who shared that the CEO called her in to discuss the sustainability accomplishments of a competing organization. Gesturing to an ad in an industry publication the CEO asked, “If they can reduce waste why can’t we?” The CSO got right on it—setting up meetings and sketching an action plan only to discover that her company had already achieved higher levels of waste reduction than those spouted by the competition. Trouble was, nobody had shared the news.
The story is a good reminder that often companies are actively working to reduce resource use, and that just as often, staff aren’t sharing updates on those efforts internally. Or at least the information isn’t being shared effectively—because employees don’t know.
Keeping mum about your corporate sustainability efforts means that your staff won’t know that these efforts are happening. With an absence of information, people might well assume the worst—that the company isn’t working to reduce waste, save resources or be a good corporate citizen.
Those misguided assumptions matter—a lot. There’s growing evidence that people, especially millennials, prefer to work for companies with a commitment to environmental sustainability, which means you’re at a disadvantage for recruitment and retention if you aren’t sharing your efforts with staff.
Making Sustainability Efforts Visible
It’s important that sustainability leads and green teams make change visible—that they talk about their successes as well as the challenges. More, it’s important to have these conversations in places where employees are already conversing—in break rooms, as part of regular staff meetings, etc. Everyone should have a sense of the company’s sustainability goals and the progress on those goals.
Some sustainability leads resist this advice. “It’s too soon to talk about what we’re doing,” they protest. “We’ll share later, when we’ve got more accomplishments to share.”
The reality, though, is that you’re never done with sustainability. Every accomplishment helps to identify more potential for improvement. Reducing resource use is an ongoing journey, not a destination. And the company will be better off if all of your employees are part of this journey.
Besides, there are significant benefits to engaging all employees in the sustainability journey. When you share goals and progress on those goals you’ve the opportunity to create a dialogue where employees can share their own thoughts and ideas on achieving savings. After all, front line employees often see savings opportunities that aren’t obvious from headquarters.
When companies use the Cool Choices platform they are able to solicit employee ideas relative to saving energy, reducing fleet costs and even making procurement more efficient. In a typical program, employees identify hundreds of ideas both large and small. Their feedback can help sustainability teams prioritize issues. It’s also an opportunity to empower employees to lead change in their own departments.
The input creates a dialogue where employees have the opportunity to learn more about resource usage, becoming part of the solution.
And employees want to be part of the solution. More than 88% of millennials report that they want to contribute to the environmental and social goals at their workplace! For all workers the number is 74%–still a vast majority. Starting a dialogue is a great way to engage these employees, which again can enhance employee retention.
Everyone Is Part of the Solution
Once you’ve got a broad dialogue about the sustainability efforts you’ll have opportunities to recognize employees who are identifying important savings opportunities or otherwise exemplifying the corporate sustainability goals. We encourage you to recognize these efforts because that positive reinforcement is very powerful. Not only will recognition of one staffer’s efforts motivate other staff to do more (thereby also earning recognition) but the recognition also reinforces the behaviors in the staff person you recognized—so they are likely to do more good stuff going forward. Recognition is a great multiplier!
You can’t recognize staff, though, if nobody knows what you are doing around sustainability. The first step is to share your goals and efforts internally—so that everyone can be part of the effort.
To learn more about strategies for sharing sustainability efforts internally, check out our webinar or give us a call.
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