Engaging Employees in Sustainability – balancing the local/corporate focus

Addressing scope: local vs corporate plans and activities – Session 2 – Sustainability Engagement Dialogue(SEND)

By Wendy Firlotte, Employee Engagement for Sustainability Specialist

Wendy gained experience as the Sustainability Engagement Manager for a large multi-national engineering firm with 171 offices.

Creating a sustainability engagement program that is relevant both at the corporate and local level can be challenging.  Since the path to sustainability is rooted in local context, creating an overarching corporate program for numerous locations can seem counter intuitive.  Could one program be relevant for all locations? How well would it work to implement the same programming in an office in New York City and in a small rural town in northern Canada, especially to track employee information through basic dbs check?  On the flip side of this challenge, when thinking through corporate vs. local, how does the program engage employees to directly understand their impact locally on organizational performance?  For example, with a simple dbs checks you can find the right employee and they will be able to read a sustainability report and relate their everyday actions to the outcomes that the organization reports on?  Do employees feel that their daily actions make a difference toward organizational goals, and if they’re working remotely (which many businesses now do) then you are going to need to check what those staff are doing and we found this option which is the best time tracker app that we have found so well worth a look.

There is sometimes a tension between the corporate sustainability plan and actions that employees find locally relevant. Sorting this out upfront, gives your strategy a clear focus.

So, how could an organization create a program that addresses corporate goals and still remains relevant and useful at the local level?  Finding a good balance between corporate level and locally organized events and activities is helpful.  Some key aspects to encouraging local relevance and planning are a focused framework, flexibility, support and knowledge sharing:

Focused Framework – Whether your program focuses on individuals or teams, create an overarching framework around your organization’s sustainability goals that is clear and relatable to your sustainability reporting. So although offices have some autonomy to create relevant plans, all planning is focused on the companies overall sustainability strategy and goals.

Flexibility – Using the focused framework you have created as guidance, allows local offices to develop their own plans to address each of these focus areas.  So even though local offices may or may not be implementing the same activities, they will all be concentrating on the same corporate goals or focus areas.

Support – Providing ongoing support for planning and implementation for all local offices is important.  Since this sort of “bottom coming up to meet top” approach will be a new concept to many people.  Having a strong support network for them to move forward will be key.  It could include corporate assistance, but also creating a network of local support is also effective.

Networking and Knowledge Sharing – Looking to other offices for discussion, ideas, success stories and advice on lessons learned could be a very effective way to make offices feel supported.  Learning from each other, but also providing an   avenue to make offices feel connected to each other as a community working toward a common goal does a lot for enthusiasm and momentum.

If the right balance is achieved, the program will benefit in many ways including better coordination, motivation, enthusiasm, better inter-office communication and a sense of community or team within the organization; that everyone is working together in their own way to achieve a common goal.

Share your best practices and problemsolving approaches – together we can make a more sustainable world.

We look forward to our discussion on scope and we encourage everyone to share any success stories, challenges, questions or how your organization has decided to address the scope of the engagement program.

Sustainability Engagement Dialogue (SEND), is a network of Sustainability Practitioners using peer learning to accelerate employee engagement for sustainability.  If you are interested in participating in our ongoing sustainability engagement discussions, please contact Kathryn at kathryncooper@sustainabilitylearningcentre.com

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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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One Response to Engaging Employees in Sustainability – balancing the local/corporate focus

  1. Pingback: Sustainability Engagement Network Discussion (SEND) Series – Session 3 – Communicating with Frontline Staff | Sustainability Learning Centre Blog

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