September 21, 2014

How to Engage Employees in Workplace Greening

How to Engage Employees in Workplace GreeningA good test of the success of a business’s “green” initiatives is employee buy-in. Do employees feel connected to the company’s eco-friendly endeavors? Do they actually talk about it and participate?

When I worked at The Wall Street Journal, our Top Small Workplaces project featured several small companies that had developed strategies for engaging their employees in green activities. Managers I interviewed told me that having employees energized by the company’s environmental stewardship not only makes it more successful and cost-effective, but also boosts workplace morale.

Every business has different green goals. But here are four ways to get employees involved:

  • Start a “green team.” Enlist employees most passionate about environmental causes to lead the charge by starting a club or committee that oversees workplace green initiatives. They might come up with “green” employee benefits or start a company recycling program. This relieves top management from doing all the planning and legwork, but employees are also more likely to follow suit when it’s their peers asking them to.
  • Educate. Everybody’s busy, and few people take serious time to educating themselves on complex topics like global warming, energy efficiency or carbon footprints. Devoting a small portion of company time – say, four times a year – to teaching employees about environmental topics or everyday ways they can be more eco-friendly will make it easier for them to see why being environmentally conscious is important and how it helps both themselves and the company. Some companies, for instance, host so-called “lunch-and-learns” and bring in speakers to talk about timely environmental topics. Posting signs around the office reminding people of the benefits of recycling paper or turning off office equipment at night can also help.
  • Provide incentive. Money talks. Giving employees a little bonus for being greener can only help. Some companies give out gift cards or cash rewards to employees who take public transportation to work, buy hybrid vehicles or suggest ways the company can reduce its footprint.
  • Make it fun. The last thing you want is employees feeling like environmental consciousness is another chore – something their boss requires them to be. That’s why companies best-known for their environmental stewardship try to make it fun, rewarding and interesting. One Top Small Workplace I visited, New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins , Colo. , buys its employees commuter bikes on their one-year anniversary and hosts an annual bike tour in cities around the country. Others host competitions where teams of employees compete for prizes by seeing who can reduce their environmental toll the most.
4 Comments ▼

Kelly Spors


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

4 Reactions

  1. Kelly,

    Not only should employees be in charge of “green” initiatives, but most often it’s an employee that starts the conversation in the first place. Tap those passionate resources. And for those that aren’t passionate, the incentives and fun aspect should get them on board.

  2. Robert,

    Great point. Encouraging employees to pitch a new workplace initiative, like a green team, and then lead it won’t just help ensure that particular initiative is successful but should enhance the workplace culture as a whole. It shows the business values employee input, initiative, and new ideas.

    – Kelly

  3. Points well made as there is so much goodwill among employees and most of the time it just needs guidance and a little trigger to get them engaged. One of such triggers is a little energy saving device called “ecobutton” (info: ecovation@ymail.com), comes from the UK and allows employees to switch off their PC with a single click. Coming back, another click brings them right back where they have been before, but telling them what they saved in the meantime(carbon, energy, money).
    Harvest low hanging fruits, go for the quick wins and as Kelly rightly stated make it fun. This all will make them feel that they can add a difference to the bigger difference their company can make.

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