Our top 7 findings for successfully engaging employees on environmental sustainability

Are you a leader, intrapreneur or influencer looking to advance environmental sustainability in your organisation? If so, this blog post is for you! Following interviews with ten of Australia’s leading industry and corporate sustainability professionals, we’re sharing the insights and key learnings that emerged from these conversations. As per our typical Sparkie style, we’ve de-identified responses and grouped them into themes. However, we’d like to say a big thank you to our expert interviewees (you know who you are!) for talking to their experience engaging employees on environmental sustainability.

The evidence is mounting and, when it comes to public opinion, the tide is turning (or has already turned?) for businesses to have an authentic environmental sustainability agenda. From operational cost savings, to enhanced customer retention to reduced staff turnover, businesses benefit greatly in having sustainable and responsible operating practices. However, some businesses realise these benefits better than others. Why you ask? One absolutely critical factor is strong employee engagement with your environmental sustainability strategy.

So, for those looking to develop or improve their strategy to engage employees on environmental sustainability, these were the top seven findings that emerged from our recent conversations with ten sustainability professionals working in businesses across Australia:

1. Build a communications vehicle

Long term traction will rely on clear, consistent and professional communications across your organisation. Alongside compelling messaging, it can be incredibly beneficial investing in a brand associated to your environmental sustainability program.

2. Authenticity is key

The best results will be realised when your organisation is committed to and values sustainability, and is allocating the required resourcing to make progress. Therefore, your executive leadership, policies and workplace culture are all avenues to practice what you preach and genuinely demonstrate your organisational commitment to environmental sustainability.

3. This is a long term play

Don’t expect to see cultural transformation and large scale results overnight. Engaging employees in environmental sustainability involves increasing awareness, building understanding as well as changing attitudes and behaviours – all of this takes time. So, your environmental sustainability strategy needs to be developed for the long-term.

4. Move beyond tokenistic ambassadors

It can be beneficial to formalise any ‘green ambassador’ role into a position description, thus legitimising the responsibilities associated with this and encouraging it to be something that employees can be proud of.

5. Talk to the head, then the heart

First of all, messaging should educate on the positive business outcomes of environmental sustainability, with a focus on rational, logical benefits rather than emotional considerations. Our interviewees noted that pulling at people’s heart strings should not be your primary approach.

6. Embed the program into on-boarding and training

For new employees, ensure that they are educated on the organisation’s approach to environmental sustainability during their on-boarding. For existing employees, particularly current and emerging business leaders, consider sustainability leadership training.

7. Secure bottom-up and top-down input

To gain traction and see positive change, there is a requirement for both centralised top-down guidance (e.g. leadership, policies, campaigns etc) in combination with bottom-up activity (e.g. localised causes, local leadership, local ownership etc).

So there you have it – seven key findings from ten industry experts to make one great environmental sustainability engagement strategy! Reap the benefits of your sustainability efforts, and make a positive difference to your organisation’s bottom line, staff satisfaction and the communities in which you operate.

What has or has not worked in your workplace when it comes to engaging employees on environmental sustainability? Have you had any major wins that you’d like to share with us or are you facing seemingly insurmountable challenges? Who do you see as a leader in the space and why? For any comments, insights or questions, please email us at info@sparkstrategy.com.au.

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