Employee engagement is a hot topic in HR circles. Experts estimate that up to 70% of US workers are not engaged at work and, further, that this disengagement costs companies about $500 billion annually. Disengaged employees are more likely to provide poor customer service, they are more prone to accidents, more likely to take sick days and they are less productive. So it’s no wonder that human resource teams are concerned about measuring and increasing engagement. At the same time, some sustainability leaders inside companies are struggling too. Facing aggressive year-after-year goals, these folks are wondering where they will get the next round of savings. Sustainability leads need fresh ideas and, ultimately, all hands on deck to generate savings.


It’s time for some creative cross-functional collaboration. A coalition, if you will.


Engaging Employees Around Sustainability

Employees—especially millennials but also older workers including baby boomers—want very much to help their employers be more sustainable. These folks are looking for opportunities to be engaged in efforts to reduce waste.


Yes, you heard that right:

  1. Businesses seek fully engaged employees.
  2. Individuals want to help employers achieve environmental goals.
  3. Sustainability leads need new ideas and the cooperation of whole units of employees to realize savings.


It sure seems like all the ingredients are there, doesn’t it? Of course companies should engage their employees around sustainability because it will improve employee engagement (which increases profitability) while also reducing operating costs (which also increases profitability).


And yet these coalitions are exceedingly rare.

Look for Aggregate Benefits

Years ago an engineer I knew addressed this in his excel spreadsheets. He’d led an effort to install a renewable energy system at his company and the installation prompted a noteworthy boost in employee pride—HR reported an increase in applicants for open positions, employees were bragging about the company in the community—so he added a column to his spreadsheet where he tried to estimate the human resource benefits from his project. It was, he argued, a factor that should be taken into account next time the company contemplated a similar project.


We need more strategies like this one.


Too often our sustainability colleagues focus on a narrow set of resource benefits—the amount of energy saved or emissions reduced—without taking into account broader benefits. HR experts estimate that it costs at least 20% of an employee’s salary to hire and train someone to replace them (the percentage is higher for upper level staff). So losing one $50,000 employee costs $10,000—these are numbers that fast add up.


Cool Choices routinely measures employee engagement levels both pre- and post-program. View a related on-demand webinar or contact us to find out more about how our strategies help companies increase engagement while reducing resource use—which is doubly good for the bottom line.

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