Why Employee Engagement Matters For Your Sustainability Strategy

Rolling out a sustainability strategy for your organisation? Here's why employee engagement is critical for its success.

Are moves toward sustainability in your organisation’s future? Sustainability is no longer a mere buzzword, and is increasingly at the heart of how industries and governments across the globe and in the UK and Ireland are shaping their tomorrows.

Why the renewed emphasis on sustainability? For one thing, the 2021 COP26 climate conference in Glasgow raised interest once again in the joint efforts of countries and corporations. Consumer demand and brand value are two additional compelling reasons: 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies have a responsibility to improve the environment, and 66% of consumers say they would spend more on a product created by a sustainable brand.

Numbers like these show that sustainability is about more than doing good for the planet. There’s also a strong argument for the bottom line.

UK-based manufacturing businesses who put sustainability at the heart of their business report a 40% increase in profit margins and a 30% increase in competitiveness. Nearly half of manufacturers see the government's 2050 net-zero target as an opportunity to generate long-term business growth, reporting that they’ve been pursuing sustainability efforts by actively renegotiating energy contracts and investing in reducing energy consumption in manufacturing processes.

Industries beyond manufacturing are taking steps toward sustainability, whether they’re prompted by government or internal initiatives:

  • CONSTRUCTION: In the UK, the goal is to achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment by 2025 in an effort to lead the world in low-carbon and green construction exports.
  • FOOD PRODUCTION: Emissions in Ireland’s agriculture industry have been rising, so as part of Food Vision 2030, the emphasis is on Ireland becoming a world leader in sustainable food systems and the production of natural premium sustainably produced food.
  • HEALTHCARE: Delivering low carbon quality sustainable healthcare, preserving natural resources, and mitigating climate change are all part of Ireland’s National Health Sustainability Office initiatives.

Wind turbines

It Takes the Team: Involving Everyone in Your Sustainability Success

But progress toward sustainability demands more than a vision, strategy, and initiatives. It requires an active role from everyone in your organisation — all team members, from leadership down to the front line, need to be engaged in doing their part to help the organisation achieve sustainability success.

How can you ensure employee engagement in your sustainability efforts? We’ve identified four key factors that contribute to success.

#1 Involve employees in defining your strategy

There’s no better way for employees to feel a responsibility to participate in sustainability efforts than to involve them directly in creating the strategy.

But don’t start there: Begin by involving every team member in actually defining sustainability at your organisation. Every industry is different, and every business or entity within that industry will have a different starting point when it comes to sustainability.

Use an employee communications app to send out pulse surveys, and provide employees a means to comment on initial efforts to define sustainability. From there, create focus groups or task forces to tackle sustainability strategy development.

Team outdoors JPEG

#2 Make sustainability program information accessible to all employees

What’s a sure way to achieve low program participation? By excluding groups of employees who aren’t sitting in the corporate office or headquarters.

Program information should be accessible to all employees, even those who work remotely or who aren’t desk-based. Consider that employees in the industries mentioned—manufacturing, construction, food production, and healthcare—and others have teams that are spread out, without ready access to email or company newsletters.

McCue, a commercial fit-out and bespoke joinery company in Carrickfergus, successfully procured 100% of its electricity from a green energy source for its headquarters. But beyond its main office, it has goals that each project will have a minimal impact on the environment. For that to become a reality, the company has been focused on bringing every team member, not just those at HQ, on the same journey toward sustainability.

To do so, they established a three-way collaboration with two of their existing tech suppliers – Thrive.App and SustainIQ. McCue uses SustainIQ, to measure, monitor and report on its sustainability efforts. The real-time reporting software provides valuable data under four key pillars of sustainability which McCue was then able to communicate out to all employees using an app from Thrive.App.

“Our employees have a greater understanding and engagement in what we are trying to do. Our team is actively involved in making us a truly sustainable company which delivers sustainable projects—a win-win,” says Gary Purdy, McCue’s Managing Director.

Communicating business critical information with front line workers

#3 Make program elements personal & fun

Relevant, targeted communication about sustainability efforts is key to asserting the importance of each individual to the process. Contrast this with a news blast that is organisation-focused, rather than employee-focused, and you’ll see the impact that personalised communications can have.

Allowing employees to generate content showing the efforts of their teams and to recognise each other’s efforts can rally and unify employees across departments and locations. Creating app-based events and competitions around the sustainability agenda (or, better yet, allowing employees to create those competitions amongst themselves) can continually generate interest and promote progress in ways that a company-wide email campaign cannot.

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#4 Track and share progress in an ongoing, accessible format

Organisation leaders and stakeholders certainly need to know what’s working and what progress is being made, and of course it's essential to map sustainability efforts to profits, efficiency and growth.

But in order to stay engaged with and even excited about the program, employees likewise must be kept apprised of progress and impact. Just as critical, metrics on program engagement should be captured so necessary adjustments can be made to make the program more effective for all.

Technology can aid in tracking metrics on participation as well as program successes, and it can go further to communicate those metrics out in engaging ways. McCue has seen this work firsthand, as they’ve captured data and reporting through software installed on their employee app, which they’ve then been able to communicate to staff.

Anytime anywhere in a digital workplace

Next Steps

Don’t let your sustainability strategy start and stop with stakeholders. Find out how instant, modern, secure communications through an employee app can engage your teams in developing and driving sustainable practices at your organisation. We’d love a chat with you to find out more about your sustainability goals and how an app from Thrive.App can help you reach them.