Communicating Sustainability in the Workplace

Communicating Sustainability in the Workplace | Future Business

In break rooms, conference rooms, washrooms, parking lots and online, as soon as you walk into the office you should see sustainability messaging. In waiting areas, in the company cafeteria and in the bathrooms with reminders to limit use of water, conserve energy and minimise waste, don’t limit communications to one meeting, and then let it drop. Continue reaching out to employees throughout the working day and communicating sustainability in the workplace.

Integrate sustainability

Starting with the first day new employees start, they should be provided a complete overview of the company’s sustainability plans and efforts. Make it easy for employees to find updates, changes and new information.

IBM is one of a handful of major corporations that actually invites its employees to help determine its overall strategy. IBM’s Big Green Innovations program includes environmental initiatives focused on advancing water management, alternative energy and carbon management.

From the perspective of the employee, research by Change In Context shows that less than two percent of vacancies have a link to sustainability, but many more jobs provide ample opportunity to deliver a positive contribution to a better world. You don’t need a business card with sustainability in the job title to have impact. From your current role, it’s likely that you can contribute to a sustainability project, or you can start your own, preferably one close to the core business. This way you position sustainability – and yourself – in a positive way.

Show progress

Routinely update employees showcasing your company’s results. Keeping employees informed enables them to be involved in sustainability discussions and planning. Since sustainability is ongoing rather than completeable, it’s important to recognize improvement to stoke motivation. Disclosing this information also upholds another Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), that of value-transparency.

According to Investopedia, CSR is a self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practising corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society, including economic, social, and environmental. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks strive to be leaders in CSR.

Use technology

Choose your vehicle — depending upon the outcome desired and on the target audience. Some companies use their intranets, some use closed social networks such as Yammer or Ning, and some prefer email messaging. Just as you would consider the most effective manner when communicating to consumers, consider the most effective manner to communicate with, and to, your employees.

Make sure all messaging (internal and external) is consistent. This is important to maintain a sense of trust, clarity and transparency, but how can it be done? MeltWater has some tips to achieve consistent messaging.

You have to allow the communications team to lead the way. When the communications team leads the charge, it may be easier to sync up the efforts and communicate in ways that will hit home with all audiences. Communicators have experience disseminating consistent messages in ways that will be compelling for various audiences. Allow them to leverage that expertise across all departments.

Furthermore, you should rethink organisational structure. As lines blur among PR, marketing, and advertising teams, it may be time for brands who strive for consistent messaging to consider reorganising. As the tools at your disposal work across multiple disciplines, it’s become more critical for brands to promote an omnichannel message that will resonate.

Whatever solution works for you, it’s more important than ever that everyone shares their campaign calendars and considers centralising their messaging strategy and execution.

You should also consider varying the wording to resonate across the organisation. The essence of a message across the organisation needs to be the same, but the wording must differ. For instance, to ensure it sticks and yields the desired result, the operational department needs to be differentiated in terms of action drivers from the sales department. Consistency of purpose or essence are paramount, but anything else must be tailored, even more so when dealing with international businesses which have many offices across the world.

Inspire competition between peer companies and even between departments to generate enthusiasm.

Track progress and let employees motivate themselves to do better than each other.

Provide meaningful incentives to encourage interest, participation and feedback.

Companies can put aside a monthly “prize” to award employees for creative ways to recycle, limit water and plastic use and recognize meaningful volunteer work. That prize could be monetary compensation, a special lunch with senior executives or an extra day of vacation.

Recognize the key messengers and thought-leaders.

Find those employees that take an active interest in sustainability and provide them with opportunities to lead. In order to identify the potential leaders in your workforce, Indeed has provided some characteristics to look out for:

  • They’re engaged with their work. Potential leaders often demonstrate a higher level of engagement with their work. They may show their engagement by asking questions and sharing thoughtful suggestions. It’s also important for them to be comfortable talking and working well with others.

  • They see failure as an opportunity. Leaders understand failures may happen, but they do not dwell on the mistakes. Instead, they use failure as a learning opportunity and a way to improve their skills. Leaders use failure as motivation to succeed in the future, and they avoid blaming others for mistakes.

  • They communicate well. It’s important for great leaders to have excellent communication skills. They understand when to listen to others, when they should share their thoughts and how to ensure they do not speak over others or diminish their ideas. Leaders also understand how to select the right words to say to best articulate their message.

Make it fun and social and always say thank you.

Think about ways to give people opportunities to contribute to causes they’re personally interested in. One fun way to do this is to hold a fundraiser where the proceeds go to a sustainable non-profit of your team’s choice.

Ideas for events to host can include an office bake sale, a happy hour fundraiser, office Olympics or obstacle course, or a casino night.

Sustainability may be a duty, but that doesn’t mean those who fulfil it don’t deserve recognition. In fact, it makes it even more critical to be communicating sustainability in the workplace so that employees feel truly good about sustainable action.

SEE ALSO: Why Carbon Metrics and LCA Should be Approached With Caution


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