You have brilliant green team ideas that you would like to implement at your workplace but get discouraged by indifferent colleagues? Getting people engaged and thinking about sustainability at the workplace can be challenging.
One of the earlier blogs considered key principles for getting employee engagement right! Here I will look at some practical tips that can facilitate engagement, proposed by A.V. Fetzer and S. Aaron in their book Climb the Green Ladder: Make Your Company and Career More Sustainable.
Stop, look and listen
Do not rush straight into the great green team idea you came up with. The authors claim that the easiest way to make things happen is to work within the existing corporate culture.
Therefore, you should take time to assess an organisation’s culture first. Try to understand where the people you are trying to persuade are coming from, what are their needs, aspirations and norms, and what are the rules that constrain them.
Even if your goal is simply to get your small company to recycle plastic drink bottles, looking and listening is important. Simple tactics such as bringing up the subject with your colleagues when you’re fixing a drink can help you to understand how other people feel about green issues. Then you can start the debate in a way that will make people listen.
By talking to people, you might discover colleagues also hate bottles going to waste and that switching to filtered water instead of installing plastic recycling facilities would actually use resources more efficiently. In this way, you will be able to plan a more effective approach and create a system that your workmates understand and believe in, and which works within the company or organisation’s existing structure and culture.
Find green team allies for your ideas
If you’ve been frustrated that machines are left running overnight or wishing that your business did more for the community it operates in, it’s likely that other people have been too. All you need to do is to find these people so you can unite to press for change.
Sending an email or putting up a notice are great ways to find supporters from different departments or parts of the organisation.
Harness the power of peers for your green team ideas
Getting people on track might be easier if you exploit the power of social groups.
Studies have constantly shown that peer-to-peer groups are one of the most effective ways to facilitate behaviour change. When people believe others are participating in pro- environmental behaviours, they are twice as likely to do the same.
Messages about the need to save energy or to be socially responsible sound more genuine, relevant and credible coming from colleagues at a similar level, rather than from a faceless corporate HQ.
Appointing green champions could be one of the ways to engage social groups at your workplace.
Setting up green champions and green teams
Green champions or green teams operate as catalysts to inspire and promote others to think about their actions and sustainability throughout the company or organisation. They take responsibility for ensuring an initiative is introduced to interested workers through the organisation, who can then champion the cause within their own sphere of influence. With the help of green teams the people who are interested in promoting sustainability can draw on a structure and find support for their green ideas.
However, be aware that that leadership and champions in an organisation can also lead to people displacing responsibility for action on to others. This is why green teams wont be effective if they are used in isolation.
Even if an organisations or a company does have a CSR or sustainability department, their role should be merely to guide others through the business of finding their own solutions or ideas. In a truly sustainable business or organisation, staff at every level should incorporate sustainability principles into their everyday thinking.
Make it he norm
One of the most effective ways to change behaviour is to make it the norm. If you can make people feel that unsustainable behaviour is abnormal you can facilitate behaviour change on a large scale. How?
Help people to realise that they are behaving differently to those around them by making invisible social norms visible.
For example, if 80% of the office already turn their computer monitor off at night, all you have to do is to make it explicit by leaving them a fair trade chocolate above their monitor as a thank you. The only caveat is that it must be something simple but visible that can be done again and again, perhaps weekly or monthly. Once this previously invisible behaviour, such as switching off the monitor has been made visible, almost all of the minority 20% are likely to change their behaviour.
And as a final remark, the authors assure that one should not be discouraged by laggards. There are always people who don’t want to engage and get involved so it’s not worth spending a lot of energy and frustration on them. They’ll likely join later when you have built up a critical mass and reached a tipping point. You just need to change the first 40 – 60 per cent and the rest will follow.
Get the Book for your Office
Want to make your workplace more sustainable, get ahead in your career and improve your reputation? Want to help your company or organisation save money, boost profits and improve its brand? Whatever your level or industry, from sales and management to government and teaching, Climb The Green Ladder offers practical knowledge to help you make a difference. Climb the Green Ladder: Make Your Company and Career More Sustainable
Inga holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Nottingham and more recently, an MSc in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics. She has previously worked as a trainee in a Brussels based consultancy specialising in energy policies and in the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Inga has a broad interest in environmental, energy and R&D policies, its effectiveness and impact on the targeted industries, as well as the role of large business in achieving environmentally sound operations.