This is a question that I get asked by the senior management team of some businesses that I work with. Having the responsibility to use your business for good, for progress, is a wonderful thing, but without the cooperation of everyone involved, or without having support from certain pockets or departments within the organisation, an environmental or sustainability strategy can really suffer.
In this article, I am going to look at ways or at least concepts that can encourage employee engagement in environmental management and sustainability.
HSE is everybody’s responsibility
Many businesses take the wrong approach to their Health, Safety, and Environmental obligations (HSE). They see them as a legal or compliance issue, and certainly not something that can be used to bring their workforce together, to engage them, and to work as a collective to bring improvement.
The truth is that by sharing the responsibilities for health, safety, and environmental obligations throughout the organisation, you can collaborate to bring about better ideas, making the workplace safer, and making working processes both easier and less time-intensive.
Environmental management is everybody’s responsibility
Instead of placing the responsibility of environmental management in the hands of one department, which could be waste, sustainability, estates, or facilities management, it should be introduced as company culture. Whether that change is made through policy or through education is down to the business in question, but by sharing the responsibility of the environment, the impact that all team members can have becomes a tool for empowerment, for teamwork, and for pursuing solutions. Why should only one department ask questions?
Action or inaction, it’s more about being conscious and engaged
I ask you again, why should only one department ask questions? With a large workforce comes a large diversity of employees, many from different cultural and professional backgrounds, and so naturally there will be many questions and curiosities held. Some organisations like to stick to a certain structure and remain rigid with what works, but by developing the curiosity and engagement of employees, a whole new world of possibility can be opened up. I’m not saying that every individual should take action, but that the organisation should take action to make sure that every individual is engaged, aware, and willing to ask questions.
Transform your sustainability culture
So, making your organisation’s culture more sustainable sounds great, but, how do you actually do it? Working with an environmental consultant is probably a good start, they can assess all of the low-hanging fruit to get the early momentum, plus the best opportunities for long-term culture and behaviour change.
1. What you can do right now to transform sustainability culture is to think about what an engagement platform for positive actions might look like or entail in your organisation.
2. Do people normally get involved and participate, or is it like drawing blood from a stone to make a change?
3. How easy is the internal communication system, and do different departments engage with each other regularly?
4. Are employees aware of the current sustainability measures, or is it handled quietly by one team?
5.Can employees see any tangible benefits to their working lives by engaging in sustainability – or do they need a different incentive?
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