Unlocking the passion of your team is the key to achieving your organisation’s sustainability goals. By setting up a group of sustainability champions, or a green team, you can stay on track with sustainability targets and create a purpose-driven work culture.
Why have sustainability champions?
Organising a progressive and effective green team or group of sustainability champions can be one of the most empowering and significant initiatives on your sustainability journey. This group can involve anyone in your organisation, regardless of their experience or knowledge on sustainability topics.
If the motivation and passion is there, your sustainability champions team can be a great way to expand your business network, foster inter-departmental collaboration and effect high-level change.
Creating a dedicated sustainability champions team offers an opportunity for employees to develop skills and get involved in other parts of the organisation. Fully informed and engaged staff feel valued and, in turn, this improves morale and creates a better working environment.
According to McKinsey & Company, nearly two-thirds of US-based employees said that Covid-19 caused them to consider their purpose in life, with nearly half reconsidering the type of work they do. For many employees, this means finding a role within a purpose-driven organisation: a business that is putting purpose before profit, taking action on global issues beyond the products or services they provide.
Through setting up a team of sustainability champions, you are empowering your employees to contribute to a purpose-driven organisation. In turn, helping you to attract and retain the right talent in the future.
Encouraging participation from a cross-section of staff is integral, ensuring that sustainability becomes ingrained in the culture of the business. It can also offer you a view from all corners of the organisation. This fosters team building, bringing people together who don’t usually work with one another, particularly beneficial in a post-Covid workforce where many businesses have shifted online.
It can be daunting knowing where to start in setting up a sustainability champions team.
Through obtaining the support of senior management by highlighting the business benefits of your programme, you can clearly outline the remit and resources available to support the group. In addition to this, creating a mechanism for sharing the group’s work back to senior management can keep actions on track and support prioritisation.
For some companies, it can be beneficial to add a standard sustainability or green item to the board agenda and have a senior management representative as a sustainability champion.
When going about setting up the team itself, there are several ways you can recruit participants: from holding an event to publicise the idea, to offering freebies and incentives to encourage take-up.
When forming the group, signpost information for staff to be able to understand what the programme is and what is required of them. It’s important that participants know the commitment they are making when joining the group, especially in terms of time.
The next step is to define a clear vision for the group. Having objectives and specific strategic goals and timeframes to work towards ensures the group stays on track and you are working towards the business’ wider sustainability strategy.
Sustainability champions should have a clearly defined role, which will depend on the nature of your programme. Delegating clear responsibilities that are reasonable, achievable, measurable, timed, and agreed by line managers is the next crucial step.
Some early ideas for your team
• An interdepartmental competition to encourage behavioural change
• Hosting lunchtime brown bag sessions dispelling common sustainability myths
• Encourage the wider team to pick one day a week where they will only eat vegetarian meals
• Organise a department or company-wide clean-up day at a local park or beach
• Office recycling assessment and monitoring
Employee engagement in practice
At Planet Mark, we know the importance of employee engagement in furthering your business’ sustainability achievements.
Engagement is an essential part of our three-step process to certification. Our Planet Mark engagement experts help unlock your employee’s passion to innovate and take ownership of their environmental impacts. Working alongside an organisation, the Planet Mark engagement team is there to celebrate every commitment and champion every success.
Each year, at the Planet Mark Awards, we recognise the Planet Mark members who have gone above and beyond throughout the certification process. One of these award categories celebrates the best example of an internal initiative or project that has galvanised a company’s employees to take action.
In 2021, Return on Investment, who support the automotive sector through a range of services, took out the Employee Engagement award based on the success of several their staff engagement initiatives.
One of these was their ‘One Small Change’ programme, which challenged employees to make one environmentally positive pledge, for example eliminating single-use plastic. ROI included an environmental discussion platform to share experiences among the team with hints and tips for positive environmental changes.