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CSR Programs: Why some thrive and others nose-dive.

Culture | Posted on May 17, 2012 by Madeleine Lee

Your sustainability plan isn’t worth a beaver dam if your employees aren’t engaged in the strategy.

Just like the hard-working beaver, employee commitment makes a huge difference in the environment!

This year when Softchoice was named to Canada’s Green 30, I wondered if there was a common thread among the organizations recognized. After reading more about them, I found that their employees’ feedback not only put them on the list, but employee involvement is driving the success of their sustainability programs.

This isn’t surprising. As with many workplaces, engaged employees are the internal change agents, fueling innovation and success of many programs. According to GreenResearch’s 2012 Annual Sustainability Executive Survey, staff engagement is one of the top two sustainability trends for 2012 – simply because “engaged employees make things happen”. They are the “make-it-or-break-it” factor.

Take a look at how employee involvement has enabled the success of these organizations’ environmental stewardship programs:

  • Microsoft’s Sustainability Champion Program focuses on empowering their employees. Instead of telling them what to do, they have the opportunity to volunteer their time to bring awareness in the workplace and take on more leadership roles when it comes to sustainability.  
  • Mountain Equipment Co-op – the iconic Canadian outdoor equipment supplier – ensures each store location engages its employees through its own annual employee-led “dumpster drive”. Garbage is sorted and weighed to understand where it is creating waste and where it can be improved.  Employees can see first-hand where and how they’re contributing.
  • At Softchoice our employees are actively involved in employee-led sustainability initiatives such as running recycling drives and creating “green office” challenges. Employees are also offered the option of a unique Green Commute program – giving them the choice to drive to work or go with a more eco-friendly option.

So if you’re thinking of getting your employees more involved in driving your green initiatives, here are some simple tips to get your started.

  1. Ensure your organization’s management or board is not only supportive of employee sustainability, but also a leading example.
  2. Be bold about communicating what you believe is important. Developing a consistent communication plan involves thinking about your corporate culture, developing the appropriate tone, and incorporating sustainability concepts into your company’s business strategy.
  3. Communicate regularly to help inform and encourage employees to participate in your initiatives. Strategies like hosting ‘lunch and learns’ and ‘green office’ competitions can help educate them about your goals and motivate them to take the steps to help accomplish them.
  4. Empower your employees to monitor their own behavior and create their own sustainability goals. Brighter Planet’s “Greening the Workplace 2011” study determined that organizations with a method for employees to share ideas were six times as likely to have a very effective program. The more encouragement employees have to identify areas for improvement, the more involved your workers will be.
  5. Recruit a green IT team with representatives from various departments. This can also help empower certain employees tp become sustainability leaders within your organization, and promote environmental awareness from the bottom up.

Remember that “being green” isn’t instantaneous – it’s a journey that requires support from all levels. You can buy as many recycling bins as you like, but if you’re employees aren’t involved in helping create and understand how they’re making a difference, these initiatives are just background noise.

How are employees involved in driving sustainability or CSR programs in your organization?

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