How to (Effectively) Implement Employee-Driven Sustainability Programmes
Successfully implementing employee-driven sustainability programmes is a challenging endeavour, especially for a global organisation with a geographically dispersed talent pool. However, it is also one of the most effective means of inciting behavioural change and increasing productivity within an organisation and its operating communities.
After all, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, employee morale is 55% higher in companies that have strong Sustainability Programmes than those with poor ones!
It’s for this reason that MCI – the world’s leading events management and association consultancy firm – launched the MCI Sustainability Awards in 2008.
Galvanizing our talents’ passion and competitive spirits, the awards – seized this year by MCI India and MCI China – recognize employee-driven initiatives that effectively raise awareness and implement sustainability into MCI’s operations as well as that of their clients and stakeholders.
This year alone the initiatives driven by the global MCI family raised almost €1.5 million directly and indirectly, with MCI staff donating an estimated 4,500 hours to community service projects worldwide. Additionally, our “sustainability champions” have worked with our clients and suppliers to deliver top-tier sustainable events, including Engineers Australia and the World Metropolis Congress in 2014, on top of 800 other events on sustainability since 2000!
But if the returns are so high, why aren’t all major organisations using engagement strategies to inspire their employees to act as crucibles of change?
Well, the short answer is that it can be incredibly daunting. However, with years of experience in doing just that, MCI’s Sustainability Services team has found that as a first step, it’s important to ensure the following:
- Strong Sense of Ownership
Placing the onus of organizing initiatives on your employees can result in successful sustainability programmes because it (1) requires a more long-term commitment, increasing the continuity of the project; (2) forces staff to assess if and how they are meeting the needs of the targeted community; and (3) encourages input from people closest to the problems.
Creating a small task force with representatives from different functional areas is often an effective way of creating this sense of ownership while promoting cross departmental collaboration and synergies. MCI China for instance – who received the 2014 Innovation in Sustainability Award – did just that. They have even created a logo for their team – a bee, as the word in Mandarin has the same pronunciation as “Pioneer”.
- Employees Must Feel Engaged
An organisation could have an incredible initiative plan, but if no one knows about it or is interested in joining, it will lose much of its impact. As such, it is crucial that organisations both communicate the benefits of their sustainability initiatives and select programs that other employees can identify with and rally behind. What more, a recent study by PwC found that 56% of recent college graduates would consider leaving a company that didn’t have sustainability values that aligned with their own.
This is an element the overall winner and recipient of the 2014 Leadership in Sustainability Award – MCI India – was incredibly successful at. Not only did MCI India organize over 25 different community projects across the subcontinent and dedicate 565 hours towards them, it was also able to engage over 2,000 people in the MCI building complex to spread awareness and dispel myths related to blood donation. As a result, enough blood was donated to save 260 lives!
Recognition can be an incredibly powerful motivator. As such, when teams produce tangible results which bring value to the targeted beneficiaries those responsible deserve to be recognized – hence the MCI Sustainability Awards! Additionally, employees should be encouraged to share their successes with their co-workers via internal communications channels as it helps weave employee involvement into the organisational culture.
At this juncture it is important to note that though employee involvement programs can be spearheaded by anyone in an organisation, it is crucial that employees receive support from the organisations’ leadership.
“Sustainability is part of our core identity, and the MCI Dream is about a desire to build a company with a culture of care and responsibility,” comments MCI CEO Sébastien Tondeur. “If we didn’t have the talent we do in our organisation, and management as supportive as it is, any sustainability initiative would be destined to crumble and fail. But thankfully, this is not the reality of MCI. Because of the dedicated individuals who make this organisation great, instead of being disheartened and cynical, I stand in front of you proud.”
The writer is Pranav Sethaputra. Pranav is a Sustainability Consultant with leading global provider of engagement and activation solutions, MCI. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.