The majority of people in the UK would now say that they are energy efficient at home. However, this willingness to adopt greener behaviours can disappear as soon as they get into the office. This is an issue as office buildings are responsible for 40% of UK energy consumption. Obviously much of this energy consumption (such as powering servers) is outside the direct control of employees. However, according to research undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, employees are on average responsible for 15% of a building’s energy usage. So what can be done?
In order to engage employees in sustainable workplace behaviours, it is first of all important to understand how your company’s culture currently motivates employees. Have there been successful volunteer or diversity programmes which you can emulate? Is it important that senior management are seen to take part? How successful are posters/screensavers/newsletters/’town hall’ meetings/champions in fostering change in your company?
Liaise with other businesses in your field of work. What have they done to reduce consumption? How do they motivate their employees?
Understanding these processes and internal mechanisms can really help you map out your sustainability engagement programme, and will show you which resources, internal teams (communications/graphics/CSR/HR etc), and senior managers you will need to engage with, in order for your engagement programme to be successful.
Be clear on why you want to engage your workforce in sustainable behaviour. Is it to reduce waste, save money, enhance ‘corporate citizenship’, to exemplify corporate values – or simply ‘doing the right thing’? Once you understand how this engagement ‘fits in’ with company culture, it’s much easier to get support from internal parties.
When you know how to ‘reach’ your employees, it then becomes important to define those environmental aspects you wish to engage your workforce in:
- Understand your office’s paper consumption, water, electricity, gas, diesel and recycling metrics, and how employees can help reduce these.
- Travel is also a large source of emissions (29% in the UK) – do you have metrics in place around employee commuting? Can you gather data around business travel – flights and hotel rooms etc?
To begin with, choose ‘easy wins’ from the above aspects. For instance, can you put discreet stickers on light switches, or on monitors, and then report on how employees are responding to these? Can photocopiers default to double sided?
Saving energy in the office and reducing business transport will also reduce costs. Be clear with employees around how their efforts will be rewarded. Look at spend vs. savings from efficiency and dedicate some of those savings to incentivise and motivate your employees.
Once you understand these environmental aspects and how they relate to your firm, you can compile an environmental policy (if this doesn’t already exist), and to start to put together SMART goals around reduction – these are fantastic motivators.
To maintain engagement, report regularly on savings and reward those who have put effort into changing inefficient behaviours in the office. It’s important to express savings in terms that people understand – people might not be able to relate to kWh saved, but they can understand how many tons of coal have been saved in the generation of that electricity. Review your progress and your strategies with your stakeholders.
When you’ve put the upfront effort into understanding and communicating what you want to achieve - and how that will benefit your company - a successful employee engagement programme will depend on your securing the resources you need, and designing a relevant, engaging and rewarding sustainability programme for your employees. Here are some resources to help you – good luck!
Related news articles