by Greg Lathan

In our last blog, “Launching a Sustainability Program at Your Facility? Begin with Some Easy Wins,” we discussed identifying obvious initiatives (“low hanging fruit”) that are attractive from both an economic (“sustainability pays”) and environmental impact perspective, which address two of the three pillars that support a long term sustainability program. Early program success, coupled with an internal promotion campaign, will empower your employees to become involved in the program.Their involvement will ensure the third pillar, employee participation, is firmly rooted in place, as you launch your sustainability program. 

Engaging employee stakeholders is critical to galvanizing corporate sustainability culture and the key driver for a long-term successful sustainability program. Leveraging the entire workforce to own corporate sustainability will transform your employees into sustainability advocates and provide them an avenue to contribute to the future well-being of the company/society. This responsibility will provide a conduit for participants to become part of the larger, global sustainability movement. It has been well documented that feelings of organizational ownership also lead to greater job satisfaction, employee engagement, productivity and profits, a win/win for the company and the employee.

Tips on Engaging the Workforce to Embrace Sustainability
After targeting some early sustainability wins, showcase these initiatives through an internal media campaign which targets all employees. Make certain you convey that the company intends sustainability to be an integral part of their work, personal life and local community culture. Emphasize the goal is to redefine the business to be economically viable and also sustainable from both a people and planet perspective. Let them know that a corporate sustainable culture must begin with their buy-in and support or it will fail.

Identify “sustainability ambassadors” among management staff who are passionate about the mission to engage employee participation. Make certain these ambassadors engage middle management and line employees to view sustainability on a personal basis, both at home and in the local community. Emphasize that developing a sustainability culture is lifestyle driven and is everyone’s responsibility.

Engage your Human Resource Department to identify basic training targeted at middle management and line employees which encourage the development of a sustainable lifestyle from both a personal/family and local community perspective. This training will establish the groundwork for their participation in corporate sustainability.

Specific Ideas for Engaging Employees to Become Sustainability Advocates
1) Encourage middle management and line employees to look for personal opportunities where they can incorporate sustainable practices in “day to day living.” Many corporations have realized initial success by training the workforce to calculate their personal/family carbon footprint and providing subsequent measures aimed at reducing their emissions of CO2. Numerous software programs are available for calculating personal CO2 emissions. Establish an internal competition in the workforce over a 6-12 month period to identify those employees who were the most successful in reducing their personal carbon footprint by the largest percentage.

2) Empower employees to become community advocates of sustainability on behalf of the company. The Unilever Corporation, well known for their commitment to global sustainability, routinely promotes sustainability in local communities where their production facilities are located, by encouraging facility employees to offer volunteer services to develop local recycling programs, conserve energy and manage water use. Promotion of local sustainability in the community builds company brand, provides a competitive edge for attracting local talent and enhances employee retention by providing a venue where they are proud to work.

3) Use your sustainability program to connect production employees with support groups such as manufacturing, engineering and quality control to minimize manufacturing waste, cut production time and identify alternative processes which use less energy to produce product. This interaction will also yield many additional benefits by establishing a firm line of communication between production and management. 

Next: “Building Company Brand Through Sustainability.”

How Can We Help?
The EI Group, Inc. (EI) provides a comprehensive array of services for the development and execution of sustainability initiatives relevant to your business. We actively seek ways to improve sustainability performance while supporting business goals. Contact us today at (800) 717-3472 or [email protected] to learn more!