Many employees today want a company that supports environmental sustainability or works toward an eco-friendly future. It’s important that companies consider different ways to incorporate their sustainability values into their company mission so that it’s clear to all employees and customers what they support.
As a leader, there are a few simple ways to ensure that your employees are engaged in the overall environmental sustainability goals that you’ve set. Below, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members share their best advice for enhancing their company’s engagement in sustainability.
1. ENCOURAGE SUGGESTIONS FROM EMPLOYEES.
While sustainability initiatives are typically set by leaders, it can be effective to enable change from the ground up. Everyone can offer suggestions; the most impactful should be rewarded. For example, the HR department at Advocate Healthcare in Chicago won a Green Tech award when they initiated a technology change that led to significantly improved customer service and financial savings. – Christina Robbins, Digitech Systems
2. FOCUS ON SMALL INITIATIVES.
Engage and collaborate with sustainability tech startups on authentic initiatives that focus on making quick societal impacts as opposed to trying to do a large-scale company environmental sustainability program. This likely leads to faster experimentation, better execution and fewer costs. Give employees a choice on which startups and initiatives to engage in a simple environmental sustainability pilot. – Marcus Daniels, Highline Beta
3. REVIEW YOUR COMPANY’S VALUES.
Values are the essence of a company’s philosophy for achieving success. Values establish a common direction for all employees and guide their everyday activities. Values are the essential ingredients for success, and they develop the types of organizational heroes, myths, rituals, and formal procedures that spawn corporate culture. – Will Conaway, The HCI Group (A Tech Mahindra Company)
4. REFRAME QUESTIONS SURROUNDING SUSTAINABILITY.
Leaders can enhance engagement in environmental sustainability by embedding it into their business strategy. If that feels too daunting, one simpler, more bite-sized way is to reframe the questions they are asking. For example, how can sustainability fuel growth? How can we redefine ROI to include green products and practices? Through this lens, sustainability can be an accelerant. – Simone Ahuja, Blood Orange
5. DEFINE AN AUTHENTIC INTENTION AND PURPOSE.
Every business should have a clear perspective on sustainability, whether that is transparency around how the business impacts the environment or a value set that provides guidance on what environmental sustainability represents, it should emanate authentically and have clear, measurable, and actionable deliverables that demonstrate that commitment. – Toby Blue, Halla
6. FOCUS ON STORIES, NOT DATA.
Create a video series where individuals and communities, whose lives and livelihoods have been affected by environmental degradation, share their stories. Make it real, sensory, human. Show people the impact, beyond the data. Then, offer sustainability projects they and the company can get behind, and enable action-taking by allowing a certain amount of hours per month of “work time” for it. – Jonathan Fields, Spark Endeavors
7. ENGAGE OTHER DEPARTMENTS.
For technology and manufacturing firms, your product, supply chain management, and IT organizations are the leaders in environmental sustainability for your brand. These three are the biggest stakeholders in changing sustainability practices. Engaging them in the mission, vision, and metrics that will drive the change you want to see will transform your company, serve your brand and consumers alike. – Chad Engelgau, Acxiom
8. SHARE YOUR PURPOSE.
Shape your company’s purpose around environmental sustainability so it becomes the foundation for all your strategic and operational decisions. Define measurable KPIs in terms of the footprint you aspire to make as a company and communicate that with your consumers so they can understand how the act of purchasing your products/services is also an act that protects concretely the environment. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
9. PARTNER WITH A NONPROFIT.
Create an alignment with an environmental organization or nonprofit that you and your team believe in that also is in line with your brand and mission. Then dedicate time to fundraising or providing service to the organization in order to support their mission. Publicize this on your own channels in order to bring more visibility to the cause. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
10. USE LESS PACKAGING.
We really don’t need as much packaging on items as we seem to think we do. For example, in Europe soap can be purchased in the box without plastic wrap. Most soaps in the U.S. are plastic wrapped. Recently, I purchased a bar of soap that is combined shampoo and conditioner and it came without the plastic wrap in a box. A good example of a product that uses much less packaging. – Laura Kerbyson, Laura Kerbyson Design Company
11. FOSTER A CULTURE WITH SUSTAINABILITY IN MIND.
It sometimes takes creativity to combine social and environmental sustainability with added company value. Fostering a culture where sustainability is a key focus will yield opportunities that benefit the environment, the brand and clients alike. It needs to be regularly addressed and employees and consumers will help provide input on how it’s implemented. Start talking about it regularly! – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC
12. PROVIDE EMPLOYEES WITH ECO-RESOURCES.
Company leaders should provide resources to help deal with eco-anxiety. Many younger generations in the workforce and as consumers are worried about what is happening in the world. They feel lost as to where to start and are unsure how they can help. Be the connection point so employees and consumers trust that you are actually helping versus just being performative. – Mark Bryan, M+A Architects
13. SEEK B CORP CERTIFICATION.
B Corp certification offers a strategy roadmap for doing business better. How? By focusing leadership on decisions generating positive outcomes for employees, the community and the planet. The rigorous measurement is the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval for businesses thriving while measuring against new metrics that are intended to be evergreen. – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog
14. CHANGE EMPLOYEE MINDSETS.
Sustainability isn’t just a practice, it’s a mindset. It’s also something both consumers and employees want. A recent IBM study found that over 70 percent of employees prefer to work for companies committed to sustainability. To start building sustainable companies, we need to reflect on what we need versus what we think we need or simply want. Only then can build truly sustainable organizations. – Camille Preston, AIM Leadership, LLC
15. SET MEASURABLE GOALS.
It is critical to identify your company’s North Star metric to set measurable goals and drive your sustainability strategy. The key is to decouple economic growth from resource consumption and build enriching sufficiency-based brand experiences through collaboration and clear messaging, enabling consumers to make positive-impact purchasing decisions while supporting a circular economy at scale. – Gayatri Keskar, Material ConneXion