GreenBiz22: Engaging Your Employees on the Path to Net Zero

Reflections and takeaways from GreenBiz22

In case you missed it, GreenBiz22 gathered 1,400+ sustainability leaders in Scottsdale, AZ to explore the latest trends in sustainable business, opportunities around today’s biggest climate issues, and strategies for how to get to the big, audacious environmental goals companies have committed to. Given the challenges of the pandemic, hybrid work environments, and the urgent need to address the climate crisis, the conference was brimming with new ideas, best practices, and innovative solutions to move the needle with action-oriented outcomes. From circular economies and resilient supply chains to Net Zero commitments and sustainability leadership, there were talks, tutorials, keynotes and networking opportunities for everyone. Above all, the emergence of ESG as a business imperative and the rapid evolution of the Sustainability profession as a result were the key themes that came up again and again.

WeSpire, Founder and CEO, Susan Hunt Stevens, lead a session with customers Tim Trefzer, Senior Manager CSR & Environmental Sustainability at Cox Enterprises, and Georgia Maloney, ESG Reporting & Sustainability Director at Marsh & McLennan Companies. discussing how companies can make meaningful progress toward their Sustainability Goals. Diving deeper into why employees hold the key to achieving net zero, especially with working from home, and how to engage them to unlock greater impact across the organization. Here are some of the key takeaways:

1. With ESG, the sustainability role is changing. But, employees aren’t sure where to look for company climate initiatives.

If you aren’t involving to your employees in your sustainability initiatives, if you aren’t frequently communicating about your strategy and impact, and if they can’t participate in it, employees will accuse you of greenwashing. Employees can’t see the difference that your power purchase agreement makes or the tradeoffs in your supply chain, but they know that you have made Net Zero and 100% Renewable Energy goals. They need to see and feel part of your sustainability efforts. With hybrid work environments and working from home that can be even more challenging. Otherwise, employees are uncertain about what your company is actually doing to achieve your very public, bold climate commitments. When employees are aware of your environmental efforts and feel like they are part of the impact your company is making, they flip from being your harshest critics to big proponents.

2. To embed ESG into company culture, brands need to lean into the intersection of employee passion and business value consistently, year-round.

There very well may be a mismatch at your company between employee passions and what is material to the business when it comes to sustainability. However to achieve Net Zero and your climate positive goals, you need to find those elements at the intersection of employee passions, employee ability to impact, and value for the business. And the value for the business doesn’t just need to be climate impact, it can lead to retention (up to 37% points increase), productivity, brand loyalty, and most importantly, innovation, bringing a sustainability lens to everything that they do.

3. Sustainable culture is driven by employee actions and company values

To create a culture of sustainability, employees need to be engaged consistently, year-round, with the value and impact communicated frequently. To make the culture stick, brands need to close the loop to drive behavior change. It starts with motivating employees to make an effort. That motivation can come from social mechanics, game mechanics, rewards, incentives. awareness, peer pressure, and more. Sustainable actions are contagious—each individual action inspires 5 additional actions. These actions should to be easy to complete. with limited by reducing barriers and making the benefits and rewards clear. Tying the actions to pro-social rewards reinforces intrinsic motivation and is extremely powerful in catalyzing this behavior change.

4. WeSpire’s Employee Engagement Platform connects global employees to your mission and empowers them to take personal action to reduce their environmental impact and help you reach your sustainability goals.

The most successful sustainability programs in terms of impact and participation combine corporate sustainability and personal climate actions. Ideally, your initiatives include 3 levels:

  1. Signature programs for all employees – across all work environments and across the world together.
  2. Localized and target programs – specific content for specific groups, role, department, team, or tenure.
  3. Personal components – measure personal impacts, provide curated actions to take and reward employees with offsets.

Tim Trefzer shared his company’s journeys toward Net Zero. For years, during Earth Month, Cox does a Chairman’s Challenge, which started as a way to source ideas for sustainability from employees, but overtime needed to evolve the challenge to reach their climate goals. So they have just launched this year a new experience for employees to measure their carbon footprints, take carbon reduction actions, and share opportunities to offset their unavoidable carbon emissions in the carbon reduction marketplace. This Employee Carbon Management suite of tools helps Cox get their employees to buy-in to their sustainability strategy and connect employees to their mission.

Like many companies at GreenBiz22, Georgia Maloney’s set a goal to be Carbon Neutral by 2021. Not only that, but Marsh McLennan was successful in achieving that goal by putting their people at the center of their strategy to ensure that all 80,000 colleagues were coming along with them on their sustainability journey whether in the office, working from home, or around the world.

Peer learning is the best part of GreenBiz22

GreenBiz22 was all about learning from each other, not only what worked well, but also what bombed. With the goal of sharing ideas and best practices, WeSpire also sponsored a roundtable breakfast around rethinking engagement to embed ESG in your culture. As ESG is becoming a top focus for company strategy & outcomes, your employees are critical to that transformative impact, as we heard from Tim and Georgia the day before. The breakfast also discussed what is ESG engagement, why it is essential to your business and your career, and how sustainability is primed to lead the revolution so that companies can accelerate their journey to bring environmental, social, and governance programs together to drive sustained engagement, culture change and business impact.

Are you ready to build a better working world?