3 big tips for engaging employees in sustainability

Here’s the problem. 

Since COP26, general interest in sustainability has fizzled… if not out, then certainly down.

Where’s the impetus, the energy, the drive we saw leading up to November 2021? How do we get it back?

There’s a lot going on at the moment. But how can sustainability, ESG, internal comms and people teams get employees to engage in their organisation’s sustainability goals, and in sustainable behaviour change?

We need to ignite and re-ignite people’s attention then channel the energy needed to tackle the climate crisis and get to net zero.

Our tried and tested route? Engage people in sustainable behaviour change at home, and they’ll engage with sustainability at work.

Once people experience the impact and benefits from reducing their carbon footprint in their personal lives, they become advocates for and instigators of carbon reduction and sustainability at work.

Use our top 3 insights from 10+ years of engaging people in sustainable behaviour change.

These engagement tips include some insights from our 2021 engagement and impact data. (Download the full report.)

How to make sustainable behaviour change accessible, interesting and rewarding 

1. Make it personal

Highlight immediate, personal benefits

Whilst altruism and big picture climate change drive some, others find immediate benefits more motivating.

Many activities that lower our carbon footprint don’t cost more or mean missing out, but instead help save money and improve fitness and wellbeing.

Take being around nature as an example.

  • Studies show that just looking at nature reduces stress and anxiety, and can even help us recover from illness faster.
  • People can benefit from encouraging and appreciating plants and wildlife in gardens or local green spaces, growing veg, taking a scenic walk or bike route to work. 

And of course there’s being active.

  • Switching one or two car or train journeys a week to cycling some of all the way saves money whilst increasing fitness and wellbeing. 
  • Our data show that nearly half (48%) of people who made changes reported feeling fitter and healthier and over ⅔ (68%) felt an increased sense of wellbeing. And just under half (48%) reported saving money

And for those who love personal growth and development…

  • Pledging to change behaviours goes hand in hand with learning – so add value by including learning and development opportunities (training, shadowing, researching) and highlighting these benefits.
  • At Do Nation, 7 in 10 people report an increased knowledge and understanding of sustainability after making changes to their lifestyle.
  • And many Team Champions use their involvement to develop communication and leadership skills.

Speak to us to find out more about the engagement resources we provide around personal benefits.

2. Make it count

A bit of recycling, using a cool wash, turning off the lights. In the moment these small acts may not feel like they’re helping much, especially given the scale and pace of the climate crisis – but powerful change comes from small beginnings.

We need change from all corners now, so if your people can make a change, there’s no good reason to put it off.

  • Set clear targets at the start of any behaviour change campaign. Keep them realistic, with a side of ambition.
  • Seeing your action measured alongside others, adding up, can be motivating and meaningful, so have a good tool in place to measure action and impact.
  • Run a survey (use free tools like Survey Monkey) in advance, to gather some baseline data, or run a small campaign with part of your organisation as a trial.

Our Do Nation Pro subscription is very cost effective for running a trial. Speak to us to learn more. We provide credible impact data, at an individual and community level.

  • On Do Nation, employees can see how much carbon they could save if they start making changes at home and at work.
  • After 2 months they report back and see their actual carbon saving impact.
  • Real time impact data is shown at individual, team and organisation level.

In 2021, the changes made by people via Do Nation have added up to annual savings of 6,700 tonnes of CO2, 460m litres of water and 8,800 tonnes of waste.

That counts.

3. Make it a team thing

OK, so, it’s true. Some people aren’t motivated by personal benefits or impact stats.

So how do you engage harder to reach audiences?  Community.

Combine the 73% of people who want to be more connected to their communities (British Future), and the fact that employee isolation reduces productivity by up to 21% (Gallup), we live in an age where connection and relationships are more important than ever.

Focus your employee engagement in sustainability with these three points in mind:

1. Unite people in a common purpose

Increasing team performance by improving team bonds and having a shared purpose (HBR) is not news.

But have you tried uniting people in tackling climate change? It’s a shared cause that effects everyone. And everyone can take steps to help solve the problem.

  • Have prominent senior leaders and internal influencers lead the charge. Talk the talk, do the do.
  • Run a mini poll or survey to see how engaged they are in the topic, use this as a baseline to measure engagement success after running your campaign.
  • Use incentives like team prizes for reaching impact targets. Some of our favourites include: donations to charity, wellbeing vouchers, money towards a team experience.
  • In the Do Nation community, 83% feel prouder of their organisation once they’ve taken part in a pledge programme. This can reduce employee turnover and save money on the bottom line. You’re welcome.

We have lots of tools and templates to help you unite people, this includes our digital platform, communication templates, engagement toolkits and other support. Speak to us to find out more.

2. Community is everything, make space for connection

We’ve seen first hand the power of knowledge sharing in the organisations that use Do Nation. On Do Nation, 72% of people who make changes report feeling part of a community making a difference together.

  • People enjoy sharing and learning – whether it’s vegan recipes, plastic packaging discussions, cycling tips, food growing advice, recycling resources and more.
  • Create a space for people to share thoughts, questions, ideas and tips on sustainable living like coffee mornings, lunch and learns, AMAs, quizzes, roundtables.
  • Many of these activities work well digitally on Slack/Yammer/Teams as well as in person.

These spaces promote a culture of knowledge sharing and connection. Which in turn improves internal, informal networks and communication which improves productivity (HBR).

3. Use friendly competition to galvanise action

Some people prefer acting for others, if not for themselves. And some people just love the smell of competition in the morning.

  • Divide your organisation into teams and sub-teams, of a maximum of 150, to keep a strong sense of community.
  • Set out the challenge – which team can have the most impact?
  • Use prizes and incentives for the winning team. Think laterally – prizes don’t need to cost a lot.

On Do Nation we use leaderboards to help teams see in real time which team is getting the most pledges and action. This easily shareable team impact data makes it really engaging and incredibly effective in engaging people who aren’t that bothered about sustainability, but who will do whatever they can do help their team succeed.

So there they are. Our three big tips!

Engaging employees in climate change and net zero has it’s challenges but the benefits are far-reaching. It increases people’s carbon literacy, wellbeing, fitness and pride in their workplace.

With the right structure and support in place, it’s easy to achieve.

Tell us about your sustainability and engagement challenges. Book a free 15 min consultation with us today >

What is Do Nation?

Do Nation is a pledge programme that helps engage employees in sustainability at work, by supporting them to make sustainable behaviour changes at home.

Do Nation assists organisations to engage their employees in their sustainability strategies and goals by drawing on the power of community and behaviour change science.

Our pledge programmes run for 3 months to 3 years and are proven to reduce carbon, water and waste whilst increasing employee pride, fitness and wellbeing.

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