Communicating Sustainability with Staff

Why is it important to communicate your company's environmental work with staff?

  • Employees that participate in environmental work within their role have shown more purpose and pride with their work. Engaging staff in this way leads to lower rates of staff turn over and sick leave, engaged employee loses only 8 days of productivity per year versus 14 days for an unengaged employee.
  • When staff understand their company’s sustainability goals and purpose, they will promote them through their own words and actions within their own communities.
  • Creating a culture of sustainability in the workplace improves profitability, generates greater loyalty and commitment from employees, and fosters the relationship with customers and suppliers. Employee satisfaction can lead to increased customer loyalty.
  • 72% of NZ youth say it is important that their future employer is socially and environmentally responsible so it is crucial that you create the company that they want to work for!

How to communicate sustainability with employees

  • Embed and normalise your company's environmental work by informing staff about it in the same avenues you use for other information. This may be weekly meetings and written correspondence (emails, memos, newsletters).
  • Include your environmental work in the job training for new staff. This will give them the opportunity to link in with what is happening, be informed for when they are communicating with customers and will create a culture of sustainability - showing that it is not something tacked on to the side of the other work.
  • Make all messaging consistent
  • Make sustainability visible inside the company for example provide info on signage about WHY you are doing things. Explain that the reason you want staff to run the dishwasher only when it is full is to save water, the reason you print double sided is to save paper, the reason you separate waste is so food waste can be composted, and recyclables recycled.
  • Provide meaningful incentives to encourage interest, participation and feedback. This may be offering some paid hours for staff to contribute to a cause they care about or providing reusable coffee cups to all staff.
  • Reusable Cup

  • Listening to staff feedback is crucial in showing that they play a role in the work and can have ownership of it.
  • If there are areas of your environmental work that staff members are particularly interested in, adapt the plans to allow them to engage in ways that they want to.
  • Communicating sustainability is ongoing. Regular communication is key to engaging employees in your programme. It is easy to set up plans then they quickly fall down the list of 'core' jobs but make sure you recognise the key individuals that are driving the work and if you have the capacity, set tasks as part of certain job descriptions or even employ a sustainability officer.
  • Inspire competition between peer companies and even between departments to generate enthusiasm. For example monetary rewards or gift vouchers, or running competitions that allow people to feel excited and happy about making eco-friendlier choices.
  • Celebrate the successes and give positive encouragement as you see staff engaging with the environmental practices.

Aotearoa resources

  • Target Sustainability is an initiative of Christchurch City Council to assist businesses to become more sustainable through waste reduction, water and power-use efficiency.
  • The Natural Step framework for sustainability guides business and local government towards resource efficiency. This independent foundation has experience internationally and within New Zealand.
  • Sustainability Trust offers free Your Sustainable Workplace resources as well as consults for Wellington businesses.
  • If you feel like you need outside help with your environmental work contact one of the waste minimisation consultants around the country.

References

Colmar Brunton - Better Futures Report 2020
How Smart Sustainability Communication Is Bringing SMEs Out of the Shadows
Employee engagement: a sustainability super-strategy?