How to engage colleagues in your sustainability strategy
Most of us have now come to expect that organisations should operate ethically, no matter the industry. Colleagues, leaders, and business owners alike agree that becoming sustainable is a critical part of that. In fact, around 70% of employees and job seekers say a sustainability program makes an employer more appealing.*
Yet, becoming sustainable is not as simple as changing lightbulbs to LED or paper to recycled. It requires teams to pull together to deliver a wider plan. So, how do you engage colleagues in your sustainability strategy?
Provide appropriate green skills training
Don’t expect that everyone has the same level of knowledge when it comes to sustainability. Some colleagues may know more than others so it’s useful to provide different levels of training. You can work with an environmental consultant to conduct sessions such as carbon literacy training to help staff understand the terminology and then tailor training from there depending on your project.
For instance, if you are planning an energy retrofit, hold a session to explain (in plain English) what this will entail and why it benefits your organisation.
Our jargon buster is a useful starting point for helping your team to understand technical sustainability terms.
Invite contribution and suggestion
Making colleagues feel valued is key to sustaining and improving their morale. Ensure employees feel they can contribute and influence the decisions of your organisation. Provide outlets for them to share ideas for a sustainability strategy and give feedback on proposals. Their input could even inform the way you conduct sustainability training for employees, as explained above.
Demonstrate the potential impact
Thanks to the media, there can be an element of ‘doom and gloom’ surrounding climate change and sustainability. In some cases, colleagues may feel there is little they can do to protect the environment, so reassurance is important. Demonstrating the potential impact of reducing emissions and putting it in real terms helps bring colleagues on board.
You could report on current carbon emissions, then show a forecasted reduction. Compare this to something that someone who isn’t a sustainability specialist will understand e.g. this is the equivalent of ‘X aeroplane journeys to America’.
To really prove the potential, show how it ladders up to a wider impact e.g. reducing air pollution in the community, protecting local wildlife, and even the jobs the project could create.
Highlight the benefits to your organisation
As well as the impact your sustainability strategy has on the environment, show how it could advantage your organisation directly. This way, colleagues can visualise the benefits it will have on their day-to-day work.
Some key examples are:
Cost savings - explained in more detail in this blog.
Social benefits such as a surge in demand for ‘green’ suppliers and therefore the provision of green skills training for the current workforce and future generations. Find out more here.
Creating competitive advantage by boosting CSR credentials.
Meeting government regulations.
Improving employee morale as they are contributing to the ‘greater good’.
Shareholder satisfaction by ensuring longevity.
We have explained these benefits in more detail in this blog.
Make it relevant
When highlighting the benefits, give specific examples according to the roles of colleagues. This might mean briefing departments in different ways as it is likely that Marketing won’t be affected in the same way as IT or HR. The person briefing should also have a good understanding of the way that department is run so they can provide thorough answers to any questions.
Ensure colleagues can ask questions easily, in a way that enables you to manage your response. This could be via regular face-to-face Q&A sessions or an inbox and email address set up specifically for them to send their queries to. If you anticipate a high level of queries, create a landing page that answers frequently asked questions that you can direct people to before they need to submit an email.
Share progress, results, and celebrate successes
We’re often asked how to communicate sustainability to employees. Focusing on the positives whilst being transparent about any hurdles is a good approach.
An effective way of demonstrating progress is to provide a timeline for strategy delivery that shows completed milestones contributing to the wider goal. Don’t forget the points we’ve discussed around demonstrating the potential impact so your workforce can clearly see the advantages.
When explaining project hurdles, be truthful about why this has happened so colleagues feel informed and can empathise. Place the most emphasis on the solution so they can see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
In our experience, colleagues often champion projects and strategies designed to benefit the environment, so bringing them on board is usually a positive experience. As the cost of living rises and the public demands sustainable practices, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and being an environmentally-friendly business is as crucial as ever. If you need advice on bringing colleagues together to progress a sustainability strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.