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Climate leadership Article | 6-minute read

How to make an action plan to raise climate awareness among employees

Getting employees involved is the key to success for reducing emissions
man parking his bike next to the office

Climate change has become part of our daily reality, with a constant stream of news about extreme weather events, changing ecosystems and the transition to a low-carbon economy. However, many people still struggle to understand climate change and what they can do to help.

That’s why helping employees understand its importance and why your company is working to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is a critical first step to implementing an effective climate strategy. Building an action plan will help you figure out exactly what steps to do next.

Benefits of raising climate awareness among employees

Get employee buy-in

Your employees will be on the front line of your efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Raising their awareness about the stakes involved in climate change and getting their input on your plan will reduce resistance while allowing you to benefit from their ideas, expertise and energy.

Inspire your employees

Working together towards a common goal to help the environment will produce a more engaged, more satisfied workforce.

How to assess your employees’ climate awareness

Before you embark on a climate strategy for your business, find out how knowledgeable and engaged your employees are on climate change and GHG emissions reduction. You can expect to find a wide variety of viewpoints. Some will be highly knowledgeable and committed to taking action, while others will be uninterested or actively resistant to climate initiatives.

Here are a few easy steps you can take to gauge your team’s awareness.

Survey your employees

You can use a free or low-cost tool to conduct an online survey of your employees on climate change, GHG reduction and their desire to participate in projects. A survey will give you baseline data on key topics, such as how committed people are to taking action and where they see the biggest potential gains.

Hold a townhall meeting

Gather all employees together for a preliminary discussion on your climate initiatives. Give lots of opportunities for employees to ask questions, express concerns and suggest ideas. Keep a record of the proceedings to help you evaluate their level of awareness and commitment.

Break into smaller groups

Organize group meetings where the conversation can continue. Since people are often more comfortable speaking in a more intimate setting, consider grouping them by department or team. Make sure one person takes notes so you can consolidate feedback at the end.

How to raise climate awareness in your company

Now that you have an idea where your employees stand on the topic, you have a good starting point for raising their awareness. Your action plan should include the following steps.

1. Communicate your climate goals and progress to employees

Share your climate goal

Your employees need to know why climate action is important to your company and how you plan to reduce GHG emissions. Solicit their input and get their help in devising a climate strategy. Then share it throughout the company, including your goals and timelines. Use your newsletter and other internal communications channels to keep everyone informed on your progress and share success stories.

Provide resources

Set yourself up for success by providing adequate resources for projects, including information on best practices. You will also likely need to offer training to employees to implement climate projects like reducing energy and waste. If you can, hire a climate expert or use the services of a climate non-profit to help you with awareness raising and training efforts.

2. Find climate champions to rally employees

Seek out the enthusiasts

Some of your employees will probably be highly knowledgeable about climate change and passionate about getting your company going on an action plan. Seek out these champions and bring them together on a committee to brainstorm activities to raise awareness and lead emission reduction projects.

Get them involved

Your champions can organize events, hold contests and share tips, success stories and progress updates with colleagues. For example, you could hold a contest for the best idea to reduce energy consumption in your business. Or, you could share photos and stories about employees who are leaving their car at home to bike, walk or take transit to work. It’s fun and builds engagement not only for your climate plan but for the whole company.

3. Develop a climate campaign

Rally employees around a shared initiative

For example, invite employees to get on board with simple low-carbon initiatives. Here are some low-carbon initiatives you can encourage employees to adopt.

  • Strive to save energy at work—Small changes can add up to big savings. Some ideas: turn off lights when leaving rooms, power down computers, unplug appliances and electronics, open or close blinds to keep heat in or out.
  • Choose low-carbon transport—Walking, biking, public transit and carpooling are all options that reduce GHG emissions.
  • Reduce business travel—Business travel is costly in terms of both the company’s budget and GHG emissions. In this era of reliable video conferencing, it’s easier than ever to avoid travel. For employees travelling locally—salespeople, for example—ask them to do so efficiently by planning their route and grouping calls together.

Lead by example

Employees will be looking to the CEO and senior managers to see how committed you are to the company’s climate action plan. Therefore, be sure to participate in the various campaigns and initiatives. Be a model of good behaviour when it comes to reducing your emissions and encourage employees to do the same in a friendly way.

Maintain momentum between campaigns

You don’t want people going back to old habits after your campaign ends. There are many things you can do to keep things on the right track—for example, share employee stories, hold a contest, organize a lunch and learn and celebrate achievements.

4. Make climate goals part of performance management

Set SMART climate objectives

Achieving your climate goals is not only the right thing to do for the environment, but it will also help to reduce some costs, boost operational efficiency and improve brand image. Therefore, it makes sense to hold your employees accountable for achieving climate goals as part of your performance management system. To do so, make climate-related activities part of their SMART objectives.

5. Build climate into your brand

As employee awareness of your climate strategy increases, you will have a good foundation on which to evolve your brand. Making the environment part of your company’s identity will help you engage customers as well as employees.

Differentiate yourself from other employers

More and more employees now want their company to take action on climate change. This survey found that 81% of North American employers say it’s important to integrate climate strategy into their employee value proposition. Your leadership on this issue will raise employees’ job satisfaction and pride in the company they work for. It can also be a powerful source of strength for your business as you seek to attract and retain the best workers in a time of labour shortages.

Avoid greenwashing

Don’t try to reap marketing benefits from climate leadership without actually doing the work of cutting your GHG emissions. Your commitment must be sincere and backed up with real and concrete action. Otherwise, you’re greenwashing and risking severe damage to your reputation with customers and employees.

A good way to counter perceptions of greenwashing is to partner with credible non-profit organizations and seek third-party certifications that offer measurable environmental standards. You can also take the B Corp assessment, a free online questionnaire that allows you to examine your company’s environmental, social and governance performance and the impact of your products or services.

Being transparent with the public and your employees about your challenges and successes will only strengthen your credibility as an environmentally conscious business.

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