How to Engage Employees in Corporate Responsibility

image: playing telephoneSometimes, corporate sustainability is like playing telephone.  Witnessed from a high level, a company's corporate sustainability plan may embrace all the right frameworks, include the buzz words, and authentically and credibly, embrace sustainability initiatives.  However, witnessed from the employee level, all that jargon and vision may be lost. 
It seems there is a disconnect between a corporate sustainability plan and how that vision filters down and is exercised in the day to day processes of an individual worker's life.  Granted, there are leading organizations that have successfully tied process to sustainability initiatives; currently, they are the exception, not the norm.
So, how do engage employees in corporate responsibility?
  • Corporate volunteering:  Engaging employees in corporately supported volunteering is an essential piece of all credible CSR programs that translates CSR values to action.
  • Green teams are formal or informal groups of people in a company organized around environmental issues and tasked with ways to promote sustainable business practices. Green teams are excellent in spearheading eco efficiency programs: paper reduction, recycling programs, promote energy conservation, and more, making a huge difference within a department.  Great for team building too.
  • Create individual employee sustainability programs. The basic premise of a personal sustainability program is to reduce the carbon footprint, lighten the load on the planet as well as reap the benefits of living a more sustainable lifestyle.    Eco actions taken in a personal sustainability plan can be anything from riding a bike to work or eating organic healthy meals or recycling.
  • Educate: Offer ongoing workshops, training, lunch and learns, and educational activities to educate workers on the environmental issues (energy, water, waste, and others) and the associated actions causing the problems.  Identify new behavior and eco actions that individually workers can take to create new patterns of behavior and choices that support environmental solutions and are aligned with the company's overarching sustainability plan.   We've learned in our eco friendly training classes, the first part is educating; the harder part is changing the behavior. Ongoing education helps create lasting change.
Tying corporate sustainability initiatives to day to day processes makes CSR more personable to an employee and helps employees to identify their role in corporate responsibility.

Comments for How to Engage Employees in Corporate Responsibility

Name: Ashley Jablow
Time: Sunday, March 14, 2010

You make a great point - often "everyday" employees do experience a disconnect between the corporate CSR mission/vision and how it eventually trickles down to their departments. And all of the tactics you highlighted are certainly important - each serving as a touch point for employees to connect with and participate in a CSR program. When I worked in corporate philanthropy for a national CPG company, the biggest hurdle I ran into was connecting the dots for employees - that is, answering the question "Why does CSR matter for me, for my job?". Often employees understand why their company has a CSR program (recruiting, morale etc), but they don't always get why they themselves should be involved in their company's efforts to improve the community and the environment. Without that sense of ownership on the part of employees, corporate giving and social responsibility programs will languish and never get the traction they need to be effective. Internal champions are crucial. And to get those champions, the most important first step is education, communication, and ultimately finding that CSR value proposition for employees. Thanks, Ashley

Name: Olivia Khalili
Time: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Julie, wonderful piece! We need buy-in and support from the top, but also employee commitment and relation to the program. It's not often enough that the two coexist. I think all 4 elements are important. I'm particularly interested in 'green teams,' employees who voluntarily take on a shape a company's behavior, and personal sustainability, which is important to reduce the gap between 'work' initiatives (mandates) and 'personal' choices. Thanks for this!

Name: Lalia Helmer
Time: Thursday, March 25, 2010

The four points that you have made are very important to the success of engaging your employees in a company's CSR. and Ashley is quite right that employees need for have a sense of ownership. The best employee engagement comes from opportunities to make their voices heard on what issues they care about, to contribute to the vision of the CSR programs, and to participate in the brainstorming and the planning of the strategy of their company's CSR. Motivation for any initiatives that involve "caring" need to come from the bottom up.

Name: Elsie Maio
Time: Monday, April 28, 2014

Julie, perfect! That's our experience for the past twenty years, too. The game is empowering the authentic heart and soul of employees to express itself through the business. Literally, to link personal values and business KPIs. Happy to share our new app with you; finally figured out how to scale the process so everyone can do this now! Cheers, E.