“Break down the silos” has become a bit of a catchphrase for business in the last decade, as companies have come to realize the benefits of cross-departmental collaboration. Today's sustainability teams charged with boosting the impact of their initiatives could gain a lot by adopting this mantra, too. Whether the goal is to cut CO2 emissions, reduce waste, conserve resources or all of the above, more and more brands have sustainability strategies in place. But making them a meaningful part of your brand is another story.
Research shows that today’s socially and environmentally conscious workforce is looking for more than just perks and a paycheck. They want their jobs to make a positive impact in their communities and the world around them, giving them a deeper sense of meaning and purpose at work and at home. If you’re looking for a way to boost the impact of your sustainability programs and brand, think about your company’s people as your most precious and high-potential resource. That’s what PayPal did when it set out to engage employees in its sustainability initiatives, and the results were impressive (see infographic).
1. Become an armchair neuroscientist
We are hardwired for doing good — or what we call “Goodness.” When we do the right thing — help someone in need, contribute to a charity or cause, or even just pick up litter — that good feeling is not just in our imagination. Oxytocin, also known as the “hug drug,” is flowing and not only does it make us feel good, it’s also been proven to deepen personal connections. Just like when the bonding hormone is released between mother and baby, it plays a role when we engage in activities linked to feelings of empathy, trust or generosity. Working together to improve the earth can make co-workers feel more connected to each other and their employers. These benefits not only help the environment, but can strengthen employee engagement and retention at a much deeper level. So, break down those silos and recruit the support of Employee Engagement teams from both HR and CSR, since everyone can reap the benefits of the good feelings created by your programs.
Make it a Mission (and gamify it!)
Do office compost bins, instructions on how to recycle used toner cartridges and carpools make that much of a difference? We think so! The truth is that small actions such as these, when repeated over and over and engaged in collectively, do add up. Think about using your company’s workplace giving program and platform to empower employees to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them. This is what PayPal’s team recently did as an early adopter of Benevity’s Missions platform, which uses an engaging, gamified approach to increase participation in pro-social activities, including those that boost environmental sustainability.
Missions provides opportunities for people to learn about corporate initiatives, gives them a way to track their contributions via a personal dashboard, encourages co-worker competition; and, most importantly, helps employees have fun while forming new positive habits. Using this technology, PayPal’s people took part in a host of actions at work and at home, such as carpooling to the office, eating meatless meals or reducing energy consumption. The results? In just three weeks, the PayPal team saved 998 pounds of waste, 10,683 gallons of water, 29,503 kWhs of energy and 22,205 pounds of carbon. Not only is that impressive in terms of environmental impact, it’s also a great brand story that you and your employees can easily share with the world.
It’s a small world after all
There are sure to be some employees who can’t take part in your sustainability initiatives because of time and money constraints, personal circumstances or abilities. It can also be difficult for remote or non-HQ employees to participate in corporate programs. This is why it’s important to provide a range of ways for employees to contribute. Easy-to-complete activities for people who work in regional offices, home offices or even on the road — such as turning off monitors at the end of the day or taking the stairs instead of the elevator — offer a great way to get everyone involved.
In PayPal’s case, 64 percent of Missions participants were from offices located outside of the company’s California headquarters, with employees based in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and South America joining in. This is important because it’s not enough to only have sustainability champions at the executive level or at headquarters. Allowing employees everywhere to take ownership of activities designed for local environments — focusing on air pollution in dense cities, for example, or water conservation in the desert — can greatly increase engagement by offering relevant activities and demonstrating that everyone’s contribution matters, regardless of where they sit.
Your people are one of your brand’s greatest assets, so why not harness their passion and desire for purpose and positive impact to make your business more sustainable? Companies that take an employee engagement approach to their sustainability initiatives will be rewarded on multiple fronts — they’ll be able to take a stand with their brand, help take better care of the planet, and see an uptick in employee engagement and retention. So, break down those barriers and make friends with your counterparts across the company, because your brand can serve a greater good with the power of your people.