5 Steps to Build a Culture of Sustainability Through Employee Engagement

July 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Insights

Do you have difficulty in engaging employees on sustainability in the office? Are you trying to build a culture of sustainability in your company? This article discusses Engagement 2.0 and shares 5 steps on building a culture of sustainability through employee engagement.

More companies in Singapore are implementing environmental policies and sustainability initiatives in the office, but one common feedback is that it is difficult to engage employees on sustainability and get them to walk the talk, and embed green practices in the company culture. How should local companies engage employees on sustainability?

The potential answer could be found in a 2011 report published by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) in the United States, titled “Toward Engagement 2.0: Creating a More Sustainable Company Through Employee Engagement“. The report highlights a 5-step model for creating a culture of sustainability through environmental and sustainability employee education and engagement, and ultimately embedding it in the corporate DNA.

NEEF observed that employee education and engagement has shifted from “Engagement 1.0” to “Engagement 2.0” over the years, where engagement on sustainability is now more strategic and embedded as part of the corporate culture and delivering results. The table below shows the shift from 1.0 to 2.0:

The report describes how companies are moving towards Engagement 2.0 in 5 steps:

  1. Permit
  2. Educate and Engage
  3. Act
  4. Embed
  5. Evaluate

Let’s take a look at the 5 steps toward creating a culture of sustainability among employees in the company.

1. Permit

A company’s sustainability vision together with goals and strategies are useful for establishing permission that employees can look to. The support from top leaders and management, and the consistency of their words with actions are also an implicit form of permission.

2. Educate and Engage

Employee engagement tools and programs are important for creating interest in sustainability among employees and providing them with the information to take action. Four tools are commonly used to engage and educate employees: green teams, volunteerism, social media, and awards and incentives.

Green teams can be self-organised by employees in the company or appointed by senior management, and their usual tasks are to encourage colleagues and find ways to reduce energy, water and waste, and cut costs.

Volunteer programs usually engage employees in sustainability initiatives to address environmental challenges in the community, and working with non-profit organisations.

Social media includes web-based technologies that encourage conversation, user content generation, and collaboration so that employees can discuss issues, challenges and solutions.

Employee awards and incentives can help to establish management and accountability structures, integrate sustainability criteria into employee goals and performance assessments, and promote more sustainable choices.

3. Act

Employees should be empowered to take action in the office, as well as at home and in their community. Encourage employees to take action by demonstrating the link between their actions and the company’s sustainability goals.

4. Embed

Make engagement regular, rather than ad hoc, and build a corporate culture in which sustainability is embedded in various aspects of the companies, such as recruitment, operations, employee performance reviews and compensation, and products and service innovation and development.

5. Evaluate

It is important to measure and evaluate the engagement programs to gauge their impact and integration into the company. Some common measurements include volunteer hours, participation in green teams, employee surveys, and correlating employee engagement with reductions in environmental impacts.

Companies are realising the value of educating and engaging employees in sustainability, which helps to enhance staff recruitment and retention, reduce costs and improve innovation. The 5 steps described above is a timely model in helping companies to create this culture of sustainability among employees, and realise its value.

What do you think of the 5 steps towards building a sustainability culture through employee engagement? Is your company successful in engaging your employees on sustainability? Tell us your experience and share your comments in the box below.

Source and Images: Toward Engagement 2.0: Creating a More Sustainable Company Through Employee Engagement by NEEF

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