Expert Guides

Engaging Employees in Sustainability: How employees factor into corporate New Zero plans

October 26, 2022
Climate Club

We’ve written a two-part series on how to engage employees in sustainability. This first part delves into the why. Part two will focus on the how. 

At Climate Club, we frequently talk with Sustainability teams at leading organizations about their Net Zero strategies.

There is a well-established series of steps these teams undertake that almost always includes: measuring their carbon emissions, switching to renewable energy, making offices more efficient, and purchasing offsets. These are great steps because they are high-impact projects that a centralized team can undertake with relatively little input from outside the C-suite. 

But, what comes next? 

A few innovative companies are taking the next step to Net Zero by engaging, activating and harnessing the collective action of their employees.

Let’s examine why employee engagement is so critical to your sustainability plans.

Reason #1: Scope 3 emissions reduction requires your people

If you want a quick refresher on Scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions check the visual at the EPA

Scope 3 contains several categories of emissions by employees. These include:

  • Business travel
  • Commuting
  • Home energy use (if working remotely)
  • Waste
  • Purchased goods and services

As your sustainability and business operation targets evolve to include Scope 3 you’ll need to directly involve employees in data gathering, planning, engagement, and action. 

Reason #2: Employees need clear sustainability guidance on daily decisions

Your employees make critical business decisions on a daily basis that affect your company’s emissions. 

Should you have one big in-person sales kick-off or smaller regional ones or do it virtually?

  • Which vendors and transportation modes should be selected for shipping items between offices or to customers?
  • Which materials should be used in your products?
  • How many happy hours should a team have?
  • Should your depots be located in areas with tax benefits or be closer to customers?
  • What snacks should be available in the office?
  • What should we do with our old office furniture and computer equipment?

These decisions and countless others are driven by criteria that rarely, if ever, include CO2e emissions considerations. If you can embed sustainability into the operations of these teams you’ll have a tremendous impact on emissions. 

Reason #3: Peer influence is a force multiplier that drives results

Your employees are part of teams, departments, employee resource groups and communities outside of work as well. There is well-documented research in both solar panels and electric vehicles that peer influence or “neighbor effect” is the single strongest motivator for the adoption of clean technologies. 

By educating, encouraging, and embedding sustainability ideals into employees you create a group of people that can take sustainability across the entire organization and in turn, into their communities. In our next post, we’ll tackle how you can engage employees in order to operationalize sustainability. 

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