Why should you engage your employees in sustainability? Employees are a company’s essential stakeholders, its “most valuable assets” as often stated in mission statements. John Drummond, the CEO of Corporate Culture who spoke on employee engagement at the Economist Sustainable Business Summit on March 17 in London considers that “an organization is its employees“, and therefore, a natural component of its sustainability strategy.
In a recent blog post, CSR Consultant Celesa Horvath offered an interesting insight into the benefits of employee engagement in sustainability.
She wrote that in her experience,” early employee engagement enables the development of a bespoke approach to CR and sustainability that is relevant and sensitive to the realities of each specific organization, and which enjoys a high degree of support and buy-in from the outset.”
Engaging employees in sustainability is a perfect opportunity, especially for SMBs, to initially define – or measure the efficiency of – a company’s sustainability strategy.
Other benefits of employees engagement are:
- Identify and promote internal talent and drive loyalty
- Inspire staff and impact individual and collective behaviors within or outside the workplace
- Find solutions to specific sustainability issues
- Help achieve specific business targets
- Impact employees motivation
- Help attract and retain talent
- Make your employees your most valuable “sustainability ambassadors”
Both John and Celesa, acknowledged the fact that the first step towards a successful employee engagement in sustainability is to ensure a clear commitment at the Board level and a consistent message across the company in case of a ”top-down” initial approach. The role of middle management in this process is essential.
In a recent round-table about employee engagement, participants highlighted the interest of “an integrated approach, blending top-down & bottom-up ideas” in order to improve sustainability management across departments, employee communications and to inspire the change.
The main idea here is that top management should define the strategic roadmap and then involve employees in defining the ‘how to”.
A top-down roll out may also be appropriate to meet specific ‘efficiency’ goals. Expert Glennon Franklin, Director of Strategic GreenSource, wrote in a recent blog post that “in this stagnant economy, everyone is focused on cutting costs to drive higher profitability” and that “getting your employees engaged in sustainable business practices is a quick and efficient way to achieve those savings.”
However it is hard to engage employees & change behaviour around “dry goals” such as ‘cost-saving’, rules or restrictions (‘don’t; ‘use less’…). That’s why positive actions, that cover both professional and private areas, usually increase employee engagement.