One thing became crystal clear to me the moment I stepped into the role as Chief Sustainability Officer at CA Technologies: finding ways to engage employees in the process of improving corporate sustainability was a must or meaningful change would be limited. Our internal sustainability motto quickly became "Driven from the top down, energized from the bottom up."
No question, you need top down support which can grease the skids of new initiatives, but how much more effective would we be at lowering our environmental and carbon impact if thousands of employees were excited, engaged and participating in the process. We have done a number of things to try to make that happen. We've established Green Teams at many locations around the world, we blog here and on our internal blog to share success stories and best practices, we tweet about what's happening in the market and at other businesses, and we've made sustainability one of the core principals of the company, highly visible and encouraged throughout the enterprise. All of this has led to initiatives that have empowered and engaged employees and generated business benefits (read this blog for details!).
That doesn't mean that we are working in a vacuum. Employee engagement in corporate sustainability is a relatively new concept and good ideas are worth looking for and sharing. Like this one from Environmental Leader in which Asheen Phansey, the North American sustainability leader for Dassault Systèmes defines educating, engaging and empowering employees as one of the three keys to a successful corporate sustainability program. As he highlights, sustainability initiatives must avoid a purely top-down or bottom-up approach, while at the same time cutting across disciplines:
- Many sustainability efforts are based on changing behaviors, and the only way to succeed is for the stakeholder groups affected to be involved. For example, your Green Team can mandate double-sided printing, but unless Legal stops asking for single-sided contracts and IT sets all newly purchased printers to duplex mode, behavior will slowly erode back to the old, less eco-efficient habits.
- ....Because of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental impacts, every functional group in your organization should have representation on the Green Team or other environmental endeavors.
Engagement, Sustainability, Happy Employees, Successful Companies
There was also a great article recently in Sustainable Industries that discusses why having engaged, happy employees is so important to business success. They start by citing some substantial financial upside.
- The Gallup organization dubbed employee engagement, "a leading indicator of financial performance" and backed it up with research showing that "engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry."
Those are serious numbers....3.9 times?!? Every business in the world should find that compelling. But what does that have to do with Corporate Sustainability, you ask? The article continues:
- A 2010 study by Hewitt and Associates proves there is a strong correlation between engagement and socially and environmentally responsible organizations. So, if employee engagement is a top business priority and sustainability programs are a way to drive better engagement, there is a clear imperative to make sustainability a part of the work experience. Engaging employees in sustainability is a fast growing trend with significant business benefits.
So, a strong sustainability initiative inside of an organization provides a powerful method to more deeply engage employees in the company's success, which therefore creates a more successful company.
Getting employees engaged in Sustainability provides real financial benefits.
If you needed more proof, a recent article in Sustainable Business Forum highlights how DuPont has saved over a billion dollars by creating a culture of sustainability:
- At DuPont, we have developed a culture of sustainability that crosses every business unit and is ingrained in every decision making process. A large part of our sustainability culture revolves around our energy practices.
- ...William F. Bailey, principal consultant, DuPont Engineering, and leader of the DuPont Energy Center of Competency, estimates that since 1990, DuPont's energy efficiency work has enabled us to avoid more than $5 billion (US) in energy purchases. On top of that success, we are still able to identify and reclaim at least $45 million (US) in energy savings out of our operations every year with efforts that require minimal out of pocket spending.
What is your company doing to get its employees more engaged in sustainability? Do you have some success stories to share? The more we collaborate the more success we will all have.