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Rebecca Chedd, one of our expert environmental business advisors, summarises how businesses can effectively engage their staff to instil a resource efficient culture in the workforce.
When we think about ways to improve the environmental performance of a business, it can be easy to jump into the trap of thinking it requires lots of capital investment in green technologies like solar panels or electric vehicles.
Actually, some of the most effective ways to drive down your consumption of energy and resources are achievable simply through instilling an environmental culture and harnessing the motivations of staff.
Below are some of the key takeaway points from our webinar workshop, Creating an Environmentally Aware Workforce.
So why put effort into creating an environmentally aware workforce? Here are a few of the benefits:
As long as there is continuous reinforcement to embed real long-term culture change, the potential cost savings can be surprising. Typically, businesses can achieve between 5-20 per cent savings on their bottom line through relatively straightforward actions.
For many businesses, it can be as simple as reminders to switch equipment off, introducing a first in/last out procedure, using recycling bins correctly or encouraging video conferencing rather than business travel.
For manufacturers, additional measures such as training staff to maximise the utilisation of plant or implement good production scheduling can deliver sizeable savings. Combining these ‘people-focused’ solutions with low cost technologies like sensors and controls will maximise the benefits. You can find some good starter ideas for energy efficiency here.
In any engagement exercise, listening to and consulting with your staff is far more effective than giving orders. Employees should be given ample opportunities for input, for example through formal consultations or surveys, suggestion boxes, team meetings or an ‘open door’ policy with senior management.
A great example I like to point to is one of my clients in Bolton, Clean Air Ltd. The company has done a fantastic job of engaging staff in its mission to become carbon neutral through setting up an in-house ‘environmental committee’. The committee is made up of representatives from all levels of the business and meets every three months to monitor progress and discuss new ideas. It’s been a huge success.
It’s crucial to get top-level buy-in when running any employee engagement initiative – without it you’re just fighting a losing battle. After all, if management doesn’t care, why should staff?
When selling an idea to management, use their language. Explain how action can reduce costs, improve operational efficiency, manage risk, ensure regulatory compliance or give the business a marketing edge.
A strategy that just focuses on awareness is doomed to failure. An environmentally aware workforce is one thing, but to really change behaviour you need to identify what motivates people.
You can sometimes determine this from job roles and interests. For example, an employee involved in the financial side of the business may be motivated by the idea of reducing costs, but most others aren’t likely to care too much – they’re not the ones paying the bills!
Staff working in sales may be motivated more by the idea of keeping up with competitors and using green credentials to stand out from the crowd. Others might be motivated by the idea of being at the forefront of innovation through using new technologies and gadgets. And some will of course be naturally motivated by the desire to protect the natural environment and keep the planet healthy for future generations – they will be proud to work for an employer that upholds their principles.
One effective way to categorise people is to separate them into ‘settlers’, ‘prospectors’ and ‘pioneers’:
It’s important to understand everyone’s motivations early on in the consultation process.