The Heart of Corporate Sustainability Lies in Employees | BCSE
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The Heart of Corporate Sustainability Lies in Employees

Almost everyone has sustainability on the mind these days. In fact, according to CDP, nearly half of the S&P 500 have an emissions reduction target. And, while many organizations consider sustainability as a core business practice, they may not have figured out how to maintain employee engagement in day-to-day activities that support progress on sustainability commitments and goals.

It takes a company culture centered on sustainability to implement meaningful change, with employees at the heart to make it possible. Getting your workforce on board with sustainability may seem like a difficult task, but by following these three tips, you can drive authentic engagement and build support for your corporate sustainability program:

Harness Employee Passions

Before any sustainability employee engagement program is created, executives need to discover where their employees’ passions lie. That means actively listening to them – whether it’s through workshops, focus groups and other forms of structured dialogue – and using feedback to tailor programs to employee interests. It also means selecting strong employee leaders who are passionate and willing to lead their sustainability teams to success.

For example, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand sponsors local programs that bring together volunteer teams to channel their passion and commitment in a particular region. Each of Ingersoll Rand’s nearly 100 Green Teams is comprised of employees who volunteer their time to identify, lead and participate in sustainability-related projects across the globe. Employees are empowered to participate in sustainability programs that directly improve the well-being of the local communities where they work and live.

Connect Employees to the Community

Creating positive environmental impacts in the areas we work and live looks different around the world, which is why it’s important to provide employees with unique tools and resources needed to achieve global sustainability goals. These goals may vary across communities, and although it’s important to have company-wide objectives, localized goals may increase participation. For example, Ingersoll Rand’s Mocksville manufacturing facility has seen energy savings equal to the amount of energy used by 170 houses in a year in just 15 months, and this in turn has a positive impact on the community due to decreased emissions. Examples like the operational effort at Mocksville can be applied on a larger scale, but ultimately should connect employees with their community.

Measure and Recognize Results

One way to measure the success and progress of your sustainability program is through goal setting. Goals help employees easily understand the company’s vision and provide them with a tangible target. For example, Ingersoll Rand’s climate commitment includes a 35 percent reduction in our greenhouse gas footprint of our own operations by 2020. It’s a journey that we started back in 2014, and a key to our success has been due in part to keeping our employees and shareholders up to date on our latest progress with milestone updates. Tracking employee’s carbon impacts at work can be very effective because it shows them how their impacts can really add up and support your company goal. Don’t forget to encourage your employees and let them know how they’re doing, too. Research proves that recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also increases productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention. When employees are proud of what they’ve accomplished, and get noticed for their sustainability efforts, they’re much more likely to be committed for the long-term.

A company that can successfully involve its workforce in its sustainability initiatives will foster a culture centered on positive environmental impacts. In return, the focus can create a large effect on your operational footprint, business success and local community. At the end of the day, cultures built on sustainability are attainable for any company, as long as the heart of its organization – the employees – are engaged and motivated.

The author W. Scott Tew is the Executive Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability (CEES) at Ingersoll Rand