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Establishing a green team, also known as a sustainability department or committee in an organization is definitely a right step in the direction towards a sustainable journey. Though it seems daunting, setting up and managing a green team is achievable through certain steps. Green teams lead the charge to implement sustainable business practices and promote green culture among every member of the workforce.

A thriving green workplace culture does mean that the workers are actively engaged in the sustainability initiatives that have been introduced. The only way sustainable and eco-friendly business practices can become deep seated is if every stakeholder is duly committed to the process.

In an earlier article, we described how to create a green culture and engage employees. This article provides more insight into ensuring that employee engagement and commitment to sustainability programs or policies at all levels is not short lived.

How to sustain employee interest and engagement

Implement sustainability as a set of business initiatives

For every program to be implemented, seek to create a business case. What part of the business will the proposed program affect? How will it improve efficiency, affect product design, save cost and time, reduce waste, increase customer satisfaction or improve employee welfare? Clearly state this case in a concise manner to every member of the company. A business case for sustainability can be made stronger or convincing if there is adequate representation of all stakeholder levels and this is why the next tip should be considered.

Take the Gemba Walk – listen to your employees

Before taking the traditional top-down approach where it seems like policies are ‘forced upon’ the employees, consider asking for feedback on what gives them concern in daily operations. They most likely have a well informed outlook on the most appropriate solution or improvements to make in the part of the organization they are involved with. Make them feel that their opinion matters. The term ‘Gemba’ is of Japanese origin whose root translation means the ‘real place where value is created’. The Gemba walk was pioneered by Toyota to ensure that leaders observed and interacted with workers on the production floor before making major managerial decisions. The highlight is ensuring employee input in decision-making, and fostering a cooperative business atmosphere. This practice can be adapted to fit any company size and industry. Ensure that the green team is able to reach every team, sector or department in the organization depending on the size of your company.

Even better, ensure your green team is indeed diverse

While it is strongly advised to keep the green team small, ensuring that all levels and sectors in your organization are well represented on the team holds more value. Help employees build the confidence that their opinions and concerns can be effectively communicated and addressed. Knowing that they are part of the decision making process can help sustain a green initiative and make it keep gaining momentum over the long haul.

Relate to personal sentiments and values

Individual concerns for environment and climate change have increased significantly in recent years but most are still overwhelmed or ignorant about how they can personally make a difference. Helping your employees see that they can make a difference in the world through their eco-friendly practices at work can make them develop a new sense of purpose that aligns with their personal values or beliefs about the environment, and inspire them to take further action outside of work.
Workers become more receptive and even show commitment by doing personal research and offering advice, when they realize that their organization is not only focused on making money, (though engagement eventually hits the bottomline) but genuinely care about their impact on the environment.

Track and communicate progress

Keep records of how much has changed since you embarked on your sustainability projects, compare results as evidence to show that the cause for sustainability is worth pursuing. Sustainability certification  provides a well organized platform and tools to assess and evaluate your efforts, and keep you in track of what needs to be done next.

Continually find ways to keep employees motivated

There are no ‘one size fits all’ methods to keep employees motivated but you can seek to understand your employees through genuine curiosity and decide what works best for your company. However, always ensure that their efforts do not go unrecognized. For small businesses, leading by example could motivate your team to follow in your footsteps. Also keep a clear scope for all sustainability projects and set achievable goals. Workers will be willing to take on a more complex challenge if they are able to easily implement and succeed or do not encounter so many obstacles that limit productivity. Other ways include gamifying tasks, such that it feels like a badge is received for every new level of achievement.

There will be no green business without green workers. Sustainable initiatives progress at a faster rate and have a higher chance of succeeding when everyone involved believes in and imbibes the essence of sustainability.

If you have never tried it before, why not challenge yourself or the management team to do a Gemba Walk in your company. How easy or difficult was it? How comfortable did employees feel about sharing their honest opinion? Useful tips to note before doing a gemba walk are to inform your employees in advance about the event – give them time to gather and prepare their thoughts; and remember that it is not the time to find fault or be judgemental.

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