Employee engagement & sustainability: what are the benefits?
Solving the plastic crisis is not a one-person job. It requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders- from suppliers to consumers and everyone in between. Even though a company is committed to reducing its plastic use and disposal, often, they need more control over the practices of their suppliers, consumers and employees. Therefore, engaging them and communicating the company's sustainability ambitions is necessary to ensure alignment and can result in higher productivity, better retention and overall 21% more profitability for the company. But let's pause for a second; engagement of different stakeholders would require an entire book. So for this article, we will focus exclusively on employee engagement and how creating a space that facilitates and promotes sustainable practices can reduce the amount of plastic produced, used, and disposed of and mitigate the negative impacts on the environment.
About 40% of millennials have taken a job because of the company’s sustainability, highlighting it is not only important to retain talent but attract new one.
The state of employee engagement
The past few years have seen immense growth in corporate sustainability and the commitments of companies to address the climate and plastic crises. An estimated 90% of companies on the S&P 500 index published a corporate social responsibility (CSR) report in 2019, compared to just 20% in 201. Although these ambitions are fantastic and very much needed to achieve meaningful and transformative change, companies often need to communicate or engage sufficiently with their internal stakeholders. A survey by Gallup indicated that 79% of employees feel unegaged in the workplace. This lack of employee engagement in a company's sustainability efforts can be a problem for several reasons. First, employees are a key stakeholder group. If employees are not involved or committed to the company's sustainability goals, achieving meaningful progress is challenging. Second, employees not engaged in sustainability will also likely lack the awareness of how their actions have an environmental, social, and economic impact. This can translate into behaviours not aligned with the company's sustainability goals and create a disconnect within the organisation that hinders progress towards a more sustainable future. Furthermore, a lack of employee engagement in sustainability can damage the company's reputation and relationships with stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulators, who may view the company as not serious about sustainability, and potentially even be accused of greenwashing. Overall, ensuring that employees know a company's ambitions and act in ways that support it is necessary for the sustainable transition and delivering on the company’s commitments.
The benefits of an engaged workforce
Engaging employees and creating a culture of sustainability ensures a company is contributing to addressing the plastic crisis. When employees are involved and committed to sustainability, they are more likely to adopt sustainable practices and behaviours, which can lead to tangible progress and impact. Employee engagement can increase the efficiency and productivity of the organisation, as mentioned above, companies with an engaged workforce are 21% more profitable than those without. In addition, by involving employees in decision-making and problem-solving related to sustainability, the company can tap into their knowledge, skills, and creativity to identify and implement more effective and efficient solutions. Moreover, employees who behave in ways aligned with the company's ambitions can enhance the company's reputation and relationships with stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulators, who may view the company as sustainable. These can also increase engagement with other stakeholder groups necessary for meaningful change, such as regulators, suppliers, and more. Finally, employee engagement can create a positive work culture and improve employee retention and satisfaction. Many employees value the opportunity to make a positive impact and work for a company that shares these values.All in all, engaging employees in sustainability can benefit a company significantly, therefore engagement is key to complementing the measure, reduction and offsetting actions a company takes to address the plastic crisis.
Some practical ways to get you started
However, engaging employees is a challenging task. It requires working on behavioural change and creating a culture of sustainability within an organisation, which is what Seven Clean Seas is all about. Our CSR and employee engagement services aims to promote this behavioural change and make sure everyone in your organsiation is well-aware of the efforts you are trying to make to solve the plastic crisis. We also support the necessary long-term plan and commitment to plastic reduction. A plastic reduction strategy that includes setting targets for reducing plastic usage and recognising employees who go above and beyond in helping the company reach its goals. That is why we are all about measuring and reducing plastic (you can read in our other blogs), as it is key to communicating employees the importance of the issue and more effectively engaging them. The measurement and reduction efforts allows us to communicate a company's sustainability goals and how reducing plastic usage is necessary to achieve these goals. We have been such positive impacts in increasing employees’ understanding on the importance of the issue, which motivates them to get involved. Moreover, we can help companies involve employees in the decision-making process. For example, ask for their ideas on reducing plastic usage and implement those that are feasible and effective. This will make employees feel they have agency in decision-making and directly contribute to the required solutions. The involvement of employees in plastic reduction efforts can also help to build support and momentum for change. When employees are involved and feel ownership of the process, they are more likely to advocate for and support the changes made.
Ask for their ideas on reducing plastic usage and implement those that are feasible and effective. This will make employees feel they have agency in decision-making and directly contribute to the required solutions.
Employees can play a critical role in driving change within an organization therefore involving employees in the process, companies can help to create a sense of shared purpose and build a culture of sustainability that extends beyond just reducing plastic use within the organisation but also ripples down to their home and personal lives, therefore our engaging services enables us to really, and together, turn off the tap on plastic.
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