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Securing Employee “Buy-In” for Proposed Sustainability Changes

May 12, 2017

Sustainability For Businesses

It is no secret that sustainable programs are most successful when everyone participates. However, immediate buy-in from employees is not always a sure thing. How do companies incentivize employees to support corporate social responsibility?

Employee Engagement

According to a Ceres survey, among organizations who claim to be dedicated to doing business in an ecologically friendly way, only 40% of employees are actively engaged in sustainable practices. This statistic suggests that U.S. companies are not effectively educating their workforce to the extent that they should. Without proper training to foster involvement, even the best intentions of management can be negated by lack of participation. Employees should champion the company’s sustainability efforts when friends and family ask about them and ought to be reprimanded if they are caught acting contrary to these initiatives, there should be a policy for reprimanding and educating them. Sustainability initiatives without company wide enforcement and accountability will ultimately turn to baseless rhetoric.

Need to Inspire

To cultivate a company culture of sustainability, both new hire and ongoing training should touch on environmental practices, how they align with the company’s goals, and how employees can abide by said practices. Employees should be encouraged to suggest new practices that may contribute to corporate social responsibility.

Engagement is an important element of job satisfaction. When an employee feels that their efforts matter and their input can have an effect, they are motivated to do more. Allowing employees to help shape sustainability practices will facilitate engagement and foster motivation. According to, likely outcomes of an engaged workforce are:

  • Innovation: Employees have the opportunity to create change.
  • Lower Turnover: Greater engagement = Job satisfaction
  • Improved Recruiting: Engaged employees attract the best prospects.
  • Increased Productivity: Improved commitment results in pride of workmanship.

Beyond the “feel-good” elements of working for a socially responsible company, motivated employees can be community advocates of the sincerity of the employer. This aspect is important for the image of the company that may be reflected in better sales, retention, and recruitment.

Employee-Led Initiatives

Socially responsible programs and commitment to sustainability are not always created in the boardroom. These initiatives often emerge from the suggestions of passionate, engaged employees. Employee committees and volunteer groups may initiate projects that can lead to a larger company-supported program. Some ideas cultivated in these groups include suggestions on how to reduce energy consumption, recycling ideas and other sustainable practices can save money and begin to establish the company’s reputation as a positive corporate citizen.

Employees Affecting the Future of a Company

Entrepreneur Magazine website touts three ways that a company’s sustainability program saves money and increases employee morale. For example, in reducing paper use, these improvements are:

  1. Working toward a paperless environment, an electronic, paper-free organization reduces the time spent looking for specific documents. This activity saves money and trees.
  2. Striving toward a single sustainable project tends to lead to initiatives to do more. Hence, company engagement becomes an important part of the working life of employees.
  3. Satisfied employees attract new applicants. The millennial generation is proving to be the most socially conscious generation yet and the best will be attracted to  sustainability-conscious workplaces.

Message to Employers

Corporate social responsibility and developing a sustainable organization are not only about setting objectives, but also require employee buy-in and accountability. The right environment for employee engagement is a business opportunity. Initiatives that save money and improve your reputation within the community can best be accomplished by involving your entire workforce.

Solutons To Sustainability Challenges

How does your organization secure employee “buy-in” for proposed sustainability changes within your company’s business objectives and goals? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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