Top ten ways to motivate employees on climate change

19 March 2007

The Climate Group has produced a briefing note outlining the top ten steps organisations can take to motivate employees on climate change. To download a printable version click here, or read on for more information. The tips are based on conversations with member companies taking a leadership position on engaging employees, such as Sky, British Telecom and Swiss Re.


1. Align messages with your corporate commitment


Example: Sky has developed a carbon credit card. Points can be gained through actions that make a positive contribution to reducing climate change. These are then traded for gifts like energy efficient devices and carbon neutral holidays.Ensure engagement with employees is aligned with your corporate commitment on climate issues to prevent mixed messages on what they should be doing. Encouraging behaviours that will help reach your corporate goals as well as developing positive actions that will also work at home is useful. These can be simple things like switching off lights, computers and other electrical devices when not in use, using public transport to get to work or car sharing. Getting people to stop and think about what they are doing is key to changing behaviours at home and in the office.


2. Provide an incentive


Providing an incentive to changing a behavior can be an extremely positive method for increasing the take up of an initiative and making it real. Sky has done this through a carbon credit card.


3. Choose an initiative that will reach everyone


Example: Interface has an initiative that enables employees to offset their travel. The company has sponsored the planting of over 62,000 trees in various locations throughout Central America and North America, offsetting over 28,000 metric tonnes of CO2. Whatever initiative you choose needs to be accessible to all relevant employees and so use a generic idea that will have mass appeal. Interface chose travel as the focus for their engagement program - this is something relevant to everyone in the organization. In some cases you may decide to try different approaches for different audiences to encourage engagement, for example where your initiative has a local focus. Think through delivery of the engagement program too - BT has a large number of field engineers reached them through posters.


4. Monitor progress


It is important that you know whether your initiative is working. Understanding the take up and monitoring the actual climate benefit will also demonstrate that employees are contributing to meeting corporate commitments.


5. Provide positive feedback


Example: BT has been piloting a scheme where energy champions encourage their colleagues to switch off computers and lights when leaving the office. Energy use from the building has been monitored and reductions have been recorded. Communicating these results helps to demonstrate that people really are making a difference.People are motivated through positive reinforcement so make sure you thank them for their effort and tell them how well the schemes are working. This will have the added benefit of encouraging others to join in. BT sent a 'Thank-You' message to their employees.


6. Provide resources to support action


Swiss Re provides financial support to employees to encourage the implementation of low carbon technologies such as solar panels and hybrid cars. This type of support provides a practical means for employees to take action.


7. Be imaginative


Capture the imagination of employees and you are likely to increase the success of your engagement program. Sky has achieved this by creating an online tropical reef to help communicate the benefits of carbon credits gained through their carbon credit card scheme.


8. Keep the momentum


A successful engagement program needs careful planning not only in the launch but in ensuring there are mechanisms in place to keep the momentum going. This may involve a series of communications or an event at some point in the future that people are aiming for. BT has an annual 'Environment Week' which provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the success of previous schemes and introduce new ones.


9. Continue to improve the process


There will always be ways to improve engagement with employees. You may set goals for the level of engagement you want, the number of employees that take specific actions or the energy goal you are trying to reach. Whatever the end game, be proactive in searching for areas to improve.


10. Empower people to get involved


Example: Swiss Re supports employees with a subsidy of up to 50% of a low carbon technology investment amount. The maximum support given is CHF 5 000 (or PPP equivalent) until 31 December 2011There are many people in your organization that are already aware of the need for action on climate change and are extremely willing to get involved in this role in the office. Identify these individuals and use them as internal champions, not only to be active participants in existing initiatives but to encourage others to be part of the process, Inviting employees to develop, influence and manage the process will also empower them to get involved.

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