31 Jul 2020

Engaging staff in environmental initiatives

Posted in: Staff engagement

Engaging staff in environmental initiatives

We spend a lot of time at work, so the “office” is just as important as “home” when we seek meaning and purpose.

Work can channel our physical, emotional and social energy towards activities that benefit our environment – creating engaged and purposeful staff. Actively enabling environmental actions from staff also increases the company brand.

Here are a few activities you can do with your staff or promote at your workplace to increase engagement in environmental issues.

Workplace champions

Nuralite team celebrating their Toitū carbonzero certification

Nuralite team celebrating their Toitū carbonzero certification. Have a look at their case study.

Look for ‘green champions’ who can increase momentum around waste minimisation, energy consumption, water usage and carbon reduction practices.

They could hold a lunchtime session on recycling tips, organise an afternoon environmental film screening, and promote the environmental initiatives that the organisation is working on. Workplace champions don’t need to be in top leadership positions but ideally should sit across a number of different teams.

Make environmentalism relevant to your staff

Large scale and long-term climate change impacts, like melting ice sheets or warming oceans, can seem a long way away and someone else’s problem.

Make climate change local, relevant and specific for your team by proactively sharing news reports on environmental impacts on your region.

Bring in an expert from your local university to discuss how sea level rise, extreme weather events and habitat loss will affect your area – as well as the local innovation, inspiration and opportunities for regeneration.

Encourage your team to share their individual and local initiatives via a bulletin board or your intranet.

Turn sustainability into a game

Toitū's Parnell office getting stuck in with the 2018 Aotearoa Bike Challenge

Toitū's Parnell team getting their rides in for the Aotearoa Bike Challenge

Build on your team’s healthy sense of competition and turn waste minimisation into a game.

Get every department, unit or team to collect and measure their waste over a week or a month and compare across your business – with eco-friendly prizes for the team that creates the least amount of waste. This approach can work for many different sustainability initiatives.

Don’t be afraid to set organisation-side targets as well – and track and publish the results.

Setting a goal to reduce energy use by 10 percent can inspire your team to make sure lights are turned out in the evening, dishwashers only run when they are full and devices are turned off when they are not being used. Measure your progress weekly and celebrate your successes.

Native tree planting events

Volunteer tree planting event

Planting trees, especially native ones, is incredibly satisfying. It gets the team out of the office and into nature, which is always positive for mental health and resilience.

Also, it increases the connection between your business with the local landscape and community. It’s a great project for your workplace champions to lead – and a good place start is www.treesthatcount.co.nz.

Facilitate carpooling and use of public transport

Public transport in Auckland City

'Auckland Bus' by Simon_sees / CC BY 2.0

Help your team get familiar with public transport and carpooling by providing information on local bus and train routes, changes of timetable and outages. Your local transport authority may have further resources (for example, Auckland Transport has a Travelwise Choices programme to support businesses in this way).

If you want to really dis-incentivise driving, limit the number of carparking spaces and run a roster system which prioritises carparking.

Staff quiz nights, Christmas parties and other events can also include prizes such as monthly train or bus passes, credit to go towards electronic transport ticketing or fuel vouchers for those carpooling.

Other possibilities include supporting working from home or flexible hours (this is becoming more the ‘norm’ since Covid-19).

Celebrate important environmental awareness events

New Zealand Conservation Week, 5-13 September

Celebrate the significant environmental events on the international and domestic calendar. Earth Day, World Environment Day and the International Day for Biological Diversity are all well-known world events that can be used to raise awareness.

Each has a new theme every year. Conservation Week, Plastic Free July and Recycling Week are fantastic New Zealand opportunities to promote community sustainability initiatives and get your team excited to reduce waste and get involved in local conservation projects.

We’ve previously outlined a few important ‘days’ you could use to start your calendar.

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