When it comes to sustainable business practices it is imperative to have employee emotional buy-in if the initiatives are to truly be a success. Let’s face it, when an order comes down from on high it is the employees who have to truly implement it. While a manager can order people around all they want, sustainability initiatives are really the most effective if the employees themselves feel that they are important. In this way they are more likely to be active participants, truly engaging in green activities to the highest level, and even taking what they learn home to help spread the eco ideas around the neighborhood with friends and family. Let’s look at some facts related to engaging your employees in sustainable business plans and perhaps even visit some successful initiatives at companies like yours.
Simple Facts on Employee Engagement in Sustainability Just a few years ago if a company was to start thinking about green initiatives or sustainability it was most likely the employees who were behind it, developing their own grass roots efforts to recycle or reduce waste. Today, as more executives and business owners become informed about the economic advantages of sustainable business practices more and more companies are seeing sustainability being pushed by high level managers and supervisors.
In fact, research has suggested that today investor pressure and an overall sense of corporate responsibility actually account for nearly a quarter of sustainability efforts currently in place. This is an excellent turn of events, but it does bring with it a concern about ensuring that the employees are also engaged in these changes. Let’s look at some interesting facts about corporate and organizational sustainability as uncovered in a major survey conducted by sustainability advising company Brighter Planet:
- When it comes to sustainable initiatives, construction companies, energy supplies and environmental groups are leading the way. Financial services, wholesale groups and governments are falling behind.
- The most common areas that sustainability efforts focus on presenting are recycling, waste reduction, energy use, and reduction of pollution and use of fossil fuels in commuting to work. But we need to promote more sustainability efforts in areas such as travel, food production and water use.
- Organizations that have a specific avenue for allowing employees to share their sustainability ideas are six times more likely to have effective sustainability programs because they are helping to garner employee buy-in to the effort.
Success Stories in Sustainability Sustainability and employee engagement success stories are popping up in companies large and small. Following are just two examples of such success, but this list could go on for pages:
Travel giant Hyatt Hotels has established an initiatives called Hyatt Thrive which focuses on four main areas that the company feels is essential to sustainability: environmental sustainability, economic development and investment, education and personal advancement, and health and wellness. The company uses a social networking site to manage various initiatives in these areas, allowing their thousands of employees around the world to share their own stories, activities, questions and more. This global effort is creating a culture of sustainability and awareness throughout the organization.
Computer maven Intel has created its own employee sustainability engagement effort around three core values: learn, act, and share. This initiative is designed to keep employees informed and engaged, helping them to share stories and lessons learned as the company works towards various levels of sustainability. In fact, the company tied their bonus structure to sustainability efforts in 2008, further encouraging employee involvement in eco initiatives.
How You Can Move Your Business along a Path of Sustainability Many organizations today are realizing that sustainable business practices can have an extremely profitable impact on customer satisfaction, organization reputation, and profit, as well as having a positive impact on the planet and those who live here as a whole. It is excellent that companies are recognizing the value of sustainability, but it is also important to remember that sustainability initiatives must be employee driven, or at least they must have a very high level of employee buy-in if they are to be successful. Thus, motivating employees to take an active role in developing, carrying out and tracking the progress of eco-friendly initiatives is an important part of such initiatives succeeding.
One very interesting piece of information that was gathered in the Brighter Planet survey was that organizations which collected and displayed information about the footprint of their organization were three times more likely to have an effective sustainability program in place. This means that one great step you can take to encourage sustainability in your company is to start out with an overall view of your company, as far as how much energy and resources are used in employee commuting and travel, building energy use and material waste. Then, after developing specific initiatives and goals start to track the progress. Show your employees how the company footprint is changing – how you are using less energy, off-gassing less carbon, sending less trash to landfill. Show the results and this will propel your employees to even higher levels of sustainability.