How businesses can engage employees in sustainability – great Guardian chat event

Posted on

July 18, 2013

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Cut consumption at work

Guardian Sustainable Business - SaveMoneyCutCarbon

We focus on sustainability in its many forms at SaveMoneyCutCarbon so it was a real pleasure to spend some time with other professionals at the Guardian Sustainable Business live chat this lunchtime.

The theme was “How can business engage employees in sustainability?” And Hannah Gould, who organised the event, prefaced the session with some excellent ideas:

“Sustainability is a word growing less alien in corporate boardrooms. While it might be a term more familiar to chief executives however, where does sustainability feature on the radar of employees?

“It’s an important question to ask, because for any business to make real positive change, employees have to be involved and motivated.”

The panel was:

Simon Graham, environmental strategist behind Commercial Group’s sustainability programme
Nichole Cirillo, director of learning, Earthwatch
Bruce Cockrean, head of sustainability, Ecotricity
Zeljka Davis, head of the EMG Cambridge office with experience in global employee communications and engagement at DESSO
Tom Stevens, project manager for Green Foundation, Eden Project

And they engaged in some excellent debate and ideas-sharing with a lively chat group on a wide range of topics:

  • The benefits and opportunities for business in engaging employees.
  • What an effective engagement campaign looks like.
  • Different methods of engagement.
  • Examples of best practice.
  • Ways of measuring employee engagement.

I urge you to spend a few minutes on the site and take a view on the many short, strong contributions there.

There’s not enough space, nor time to rehearse everything now but just to give you a flavour, discussion ranged from empowering employee green champions, the role of the CSR department in sustainable strategies, the open mind, listening as as talking, inspiration from leadership and how to convince executives of the benefits of sustainability. Great points too about making the engagement process active, fun and challenging as well as a telling contribution worth quoting in full:

“One thing we’ve done is tie sustainability directly back to the business in terms of efficiencies gained. I’ve had one of our corporate partners tell us that when he talks about sustainability, he hardly ever mentions “the environment”, but rather focuses on cost savings achieved through using resources more efficiently. While some people might have a hard time relating to “the environment” or issues like climate change, we can all immediately “get” the notion of cost savings.”

Not easy to end this post but I’ll leave that to Tom Stevens who writes that sustainability inherently means different things to different people.

“As individuals our understanding of ‘sustainability’ is necessarily impacted by our value sets and the things we hold dear. But fundamentally the most important piece in engaging employees in ‘sustainability’ is to make it relevant. We often do this by exploring every day products – such as tea or coffee – and using these as tools to help others understand the complexity of the issues and how their choices can help make a difference.

“So while we recognise that the sustainability journey is often about individual choices, we’re increasingly interested in how strong we can be collectively.”

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