Sustainable employee engagement – The future

Across the globe we have witnessed a plethora of brands hit impressive targets in terms of sustainability. Despite clear leeway opening up between these brands and those left behind, an opportunity presents itself for reinvention.

Normally, in order to improve sustainability, an assessment of processes currently in place is required. Areas of improvement are flagged, and changes are made, normally in the form of swapping out environmentally-unfriendly old equipment with new, eco-considerate ones. But this basic approach of swapping out doesn’t achieve anywhere near the full scope of potential when it comes to sustainability.

Simply asking your employees to put their waste into the appropriate bin would have significant impact on a company’s general, and initial, sustainability. But this doesn’t change the mindset of the person; the waste item is still waste, it’s just going in a different box now.

That said, what if there were an easy, big change you could make? Instead of viewing waste as a disposable problem for one container or another to be collected, encourage the view that the material is not waste at all. It isn’t without value to the company — it won’t be used by the employee, but it is still a valuable resource that the company has produced and that could be used.

Despite the fact the message is simplistic, getting through to the employees is the difficult aspect. Even more difficult than that, would be to get the message to spread throughout the industry

The first phase is to make people understand that there change of habits is not difficult. People do, for the most part, want to do the right thing. Now more than ever, people are inherently aware of their impact on the environment and want to reduce it. Most accept that it is a group effort too!

The trickiness then comes, however, in maintaining the shift in habits. Often, short term goals can conflict with long-term ones; they are, by their very nature, more immediate and therefore seem more achievable. There’s a sense of response and feedback far quicker with short-term goals. For long-term goals to be stuck to, a form of monitoring, measuring, and reward along the way is needed in order to maintain enthusiasm to reach that distant goal.

Measures do have to be implemented which ensure that the efforts taking place are matched across the breadth of the company. Silo working, that is, groups within the company who are reluctant to share information with others in the same company, can prove a problem. It also encourages the damaging thought process of shifted responsibility, for example, teams leaving the entire responsibility on the sustainability team and ignoring the need to change their own attitudes towards sustainability for the process to work. Changing this attitude helps engrain a consistent focus on sustainability among all employees.

The ideal place to begin is with procurement. Here, we will look at a company’s business waste disposal process, whether it’s small-scale bin collection or a frequent skip hire is an example.

When taking a look at a company’s previously implemented methods aligned with sustainability, there often tends to be a focus on little more than achieving results but by saving costs. This causes a heavy focus on price per lift and the frequency of collection that can be offered by a third party. But this does not help a company achieve its long-term sustainability goals; even if the service obtained is well-documented, it is still the same old process, just better recorded! Instead, success is better found is moving away from the old process and accepting that, while it worked for the company then, it no longer supports the need for sustainability now. A new process needs to be created revolving around your new sustainability goals. In doing so, you’ll have a new process in place that is more flexible, more creative, and far more efficient for your workplace and its current goals. It’s a case of working smarter, not harder.

In order to witness any success from your goals, you will need to make all of your company’s processes transparent. A published statement, declared timescales, and defined targets are far more convincing than a sweeping statement of commitment to the cause.

Laying out specific goals is a good way to give yourself something to work towards however, if any stage these goals become unachievable, do not keep them disclosed. Share with those who hold an interest why these could not be achieved, detailing any potential findings. Pointing to failings is often a good way of achieving future improvement.