The ‘S’​ word: How to communicate sustainability to your employees?

Almost every organisation no matter how large or small has workplace and operation sustainability as one of its key priorities and even if they haven’t yet caught up on it, they will eventually be pressured by their employees and shareholders to do so.

So what is environmental sustainability and how does our workplace affect it?

There are several definitions on what is sustainability but my favourite is how Scandinavia Standard defined it because frankly how the UN defined it, was not clear and too abstract for me. Sustainability is the relationship between human action and nature. Nature is suffering due to significant impact by human actions. Oceans are being polluted by huge amounts of waste, forests are disappearing, air quality is reduced, and the temperature of the planet continues to rise.

Our workplace has a huge impact and is part of how our environment is suffering whether through its waste, the energy it consumes or the products produced. This is why it is important to communicate sustainability correctly and constantly.

Why should you communicate workplace sustainability?

1.      If you communicate it internally clearly and in a consistent fashion it will become an important part of your company’s culture.

2.      By making it part of your culture your employees will be your advocates externally and be proud in taking part in such a great initiative.

3.      If you communicate it externally your shareholders, suppliers, and future employees will have a clear understanding of how you share their “commitment to the environment” and how you do business. This will result into increasing your brand image and reputation

So what steps should you take to communicate your workplace sustainability initiatives?

1.      The first step you need to do is partner with your facility management. This team is the one that will help you gather the data, collate behind the scene initiatives and they are the ones who are the true experts.

We rarely know the intricacies of how our workplace waste is gathered, or where it ends. We also rarely know how easy or difficult it is to cancel paper/plastic cups and replace them with mugs for example.

2.      The second step is to partner with your real estate team especially if you are a global organisation. This team will be the one who would choose the buildings based on location, quality of internal air/light, and space needed to accommodate the needs of employees. This is why they would be best to provide you with non-conventional stories such as how they chose the furniture, or designed the office lighting.

3.      The third step is to search for the employees who are passionate about the environment and driven to make a difference. The facilities team can help you with this as they would have been approached by the employees who want to change the world.

Finally, how on earth will you change the mind-set of your employees? Here are some examples and recommendations

1.      Workplace environmental sustainability should have a brand/identity that would represent and highlight the work being done. The brand you create should complement or align with your organisation’s overall brand but still be different to attract and force your employees to learn more or dig deeper into it.

2.      Create a competition where employees can submit their ideas on how the workplace carbon foot print can be lowered. The competition should be judged by someone from your leadership team, a facility manager, and an employee. The winning idea/ideas would be the ones implemented. The competition can have more than one category and this way you can have more than an idea to implement.

3.      Work with your HR team to see how employees can lower their carbon footprint and how this can be incorporated into their reward system. For example, if an employee chooses to cycle to work he/she can be given a monetary reward.

4.      Tag your employees with sustainability focused messages on your internal/external social media channels. For example “happy earth day, Go Green, Sustainability is key”. Make sure you create your own hashtags and urge them to share it with their connections and friends.

There are many more ideas which I have implemented on workplace sustainability so if you wish to brainstorm do get in touch I only require tea 🙂

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Gihan Hyde
Gihan Hyde is an award winning corporate communication expert with a deep passion for internal communication. Her roles spanned different organisations including HSBC, Barclays, M&S, and Department for International Trade, and the Riyadh Metro Project.
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