7 Ways to Engage Your People and Create a Sustainable Business

Posted in Food and beveragesLeadership on Dec 7 2022, by Fiona SextonFiona Sexton

7 ways to engage your people and create a sustainable business

Your employees are increasingly interested in environmental issues; people who are not usually politically active are now motivated to do something, which is not surprising given the urgency and our ominous position, if we don’t take immediate action to protect the planet.

Of course, this isn’t EVERY employee, but even those who are not politically inclined are now more aware and have opinions about things like excess packaging, refillable coffee cups, wasteful energy at work, and unnecessary travel.

And we all know that job applicants are now choosing employers based on culture and values, as well as job title and salary. The purpose led-economy is here, so you too need to be asking yourself, “Why does this company exist?”.

How is your company affecting people's lives, how can we redirect business operations to work in a planet-friendly way?

The typical reaction of many managers is still: ‘Yes, it’s important, but it’s someone else’s job, and I have my own job and team to focus on’

But in fact, every action and decision taken by a company has an environmental impact.

So it’s about integrating sustainability into every employee’s job and turning a sustainable business model into business as usual.

Employee engagement creates a sense of pride and shows your company cares about its people, and the planet. And let’s not forget the best ideas so often come from the ground up!

Ok, how are you going to make this transformation? What’s the best and fastest way to engage your people! Here’s 7 ideas to get you going:

1. Sounds obvious but…

Do you have a sustainability strategy with achievable milestones and measurable targets and a policy statement to go with it? The policy statement should describe your sustainability strategy and goals. Make sure it’s relevant, available, and fully understood INTERNALLY as well as externally. Also your strategy should be integral to the overall business strategy and NOT a separate thing - all too often it is. What comms do you need to bring your climate ambition alive, a company sustainability week? Regular spotlights on the progress of your sustainability initiatives… green champion of the month award etc.

2. Sing from the same hymn sheet

Upskill every employee. Climate training is the way to ensure that sustainability is embedded in every role in your company. Everyone is coming at this from a different starting point BUT everyone needs to understand the risks and opportunities the climate is posing for your business, their livelihoods, and the impact your industry is having. Training makes sure everyone understands things like: carbon footprints, energy efficiency, a sustainable supply chain, ESG reporting, circular economy principles and more…

3. Give everyone a voice

Let everyone contribute to the strategy and decision-making. Your strategy should be a living thing that is constantly improving. It sounds so simple, but an employee survey is a very successful tool to glean great ideas. And new initiatives are so much easier to roll out if there is a communal sense of ownership. Make every single employee a green champion!

4. It’ a big culture change

Creating a sustainable business means complete business transformation, and a complete culture shift. So senior management must be driving—top managers must be going green themselves, if they are to encourage others to change behaviors.

5. HR - the driving force

HR has a special role because they have key relationships with every employee at every level, and at every stage of their career. Now just might be the time to update every policy, practice, value, and award. If HR can help make sustainability public and thoroughly integrated, this kind of consistency between values and outcomes creates a culture of trust and loyalty.

6. Get your teams working it out together

When everyone understands the overarching company targets, then each team can collaborate to create new individual and team objectives to help the organisation reach its goals. New climate skills and behaviors must be role-specific to create sustainable decision-making at every level. Task each team with reviewing their operation. For example, does your procurement team consider the environmental impact of their buying decisions? The team may need to create a new vendor impact assessment template? Does your finance team know how to conduct environmental and social cost accounting (increasingly a requirement for investors and funders). They may need to upskill or bring in new expertise.

There’s huge potential if you can empower your employees to innovate and come up with the ideas and solutions to take your business in the right direction. Hold people accountable for their performance by linking it to reward and career progression.

7. Bring it alive and make it fun

Here are my favorite 3 excursions or team days for getting everybody excited, engaged, and feeling optimistic about climate. We need to remind ourselves constantly that we already have the solutions to reverse climate change - yes, true! We just need to embrace them wholeheartedly, that means taking lots more action.

How to build a forest in your backyard - Forests don't have to be far-flung nature reserves, isolated from human life. We can grow them right where we are - even in cities. Eco-entrepreneur and TED Fellow Shubhendu Sharma grows ultra-dense, biodiverse mini-forests of native species in urban areas by engineering soil, microbes and biomass to kickstart natural growth processes. Check out his ted talk, it describes how to grow a 100-year-old forest in just 10 years, and learn how your company could get in on this tiny jungle party.

Team visit to a regenerative agriculture farm. Moyhill Farm give amazing educational tours on regenerative agriculture practices. And you can volunteer on the farm too. Some time spent here will make everyone think about their food choices.. Making changes to our diet is the single most important thing we all can do to reduce Carbon emissions!

A day out planting Trees - An organised day out in your local forest planting trees with a reputable woodland regeneration organisation or charity is super educational experience. You’ll learn all about re-wilding and the right approach to reforestation. It will make you think about everything from the way you heat your home, to the furniture you buy, and the waste management in your locality.

How CoolPlanet can assist you

If you need help engaging your team and decarbonising your business CoolPlanet can help you. Schedule a call with CoolPlanet

Build climate literacy internally and in your supply chain and get everyone aligned on your decarbonisation goals. Educate your workforce and supply chain in how they can play a part in your decarbonisation success, and how their actions are part of the solution.