How to get buy-in from your colleagues on Sustainability initiatives.
At Global Action Plan, we believe that behaviour change is essential to climate action.
We know that we need to make urgent changes at all levels of society: in our economy, our politics, our transport and energy systems, our food production. And our lifestyles. We cannot achieve ‘systems change’ if we don’t consider how we can change people’s behaviour as individuals and as groups.
As set out in our paper “GAP’s “Approach to Behaviour Change”, we aim to provide people with the knowledge, motivation and opportunities to analyse current behaviour patterns (habits) and explore alternative actions.
Encouraging behaviour change can also be done at a corporate level. Essity, a hygiene and health company in Sweden, found that 7 out of 10 employees globally feel they are left to take the lead when it comes to climate action. And in our work with companies all over Ireland, we have found that in every company, there are growing groups of people who are looking for ways to improve sustainability practices in their places of work.
This is why we encourage businesses to create a corporate Green Team, to provide a focal point for people with ideas on how the company and its employees can take action, large and small.
A corporate Green Team creates space for experimentation within the workplace. This means giving employees the space to propose and try out new ideas. Giving employees space to experiment eliminates some barriers to climate action.
And increasingly, companies know that Global Action Plan can help them on their sustainability journey: Global Action Plan can help you harness employee power for the planet.
GAP’s Top Tips for Green Teams
Global Action Plan believes that the people who know best how to improve their company are the people who work there. And we can help companies create the space to release the creativity of their employees, to develop an actionable roadmap and a workable sustainability framework, which is supported by all employees.
A good starting point is to make sure you have an effective Green Team. Here are some of our tips to help your Green Team achieve its goals:
Decide who should be on the Green Team:
In our experience, Green Teams that allow people to self-select work best: if people volunteer for the role, they are already motivated and willing to put in the required hours. If the team is too small, suggest a “Bring A Buddy” strategy, and actively recruit in sections of the company that are not yet represented on the Team. An effective Sustainability strategy needs input from all parts of the business.
Figure out together what the Green Team should do:
At GAP, we don’t prescribe what Green Teams should do; what works for one company may not be appropriate for another. The most important role the Team can play is to create a safe space, where people can come up with ideas and suggestions, without fear.
All groups of volunteers have to find a balance between ambition and realism. Instead of deciding whether or not a goal is realistic, figure out if it aligns with your team’s values.
Set a baseline:
Most of the companies GAP works with have begun their Sustainability journey with a ‘Sustainability Audit’: an assessment of current practices in the company. Typically, such an audit would look at Leadership (what support is there for a strong sustainability programme); Staff (how has the company communicated with staff on Sustainability to date); Waste (what waste does the business generate, in all stages of its supply line); Energy (how much energy is being used in what sections of the company); Suppliers (how is the business engaging with suppliers, and what sustainability standards does it require them to uphold); Biodiversity (what is the company doing to minimise its environmental footprint and maximise its contribution to enhancing biodiversity); Social (What is the company doing to give back to the community); Environmental Impact (what is the environmental impact of its products, and of the use people make of the products); etc.
Make sure the Green Team functions as a team:
All effective teams need a clear focus, but also clarity about decision-making processes, divisions of labour and accountability. And they need a balance between serious work and team spirit. So make sure to have (healthy) snacks at meetings, and build in time for social activities.
Distribute responsibility evenly:
Make sure that responsibility for the Green Team does not fall on one single person. If this person leaves the company, it is likely that the team will fall apart. Instead, distribute responsibility to strengthen the team, promote team-work, and prevent it from falling apart
Reinvigorate your green team:
If you already have a green team and it’s not working out, consider introducing new ideas and activities to reinvigorate it. Making meetings more fun, competing in challenges, and partaking in new activities can make your team more excited.
Some ideas for Green Team activities
The best ideas are those your Green Team comes up with. But here are some examples of ideas that other Green Teams have produced, to give you inspiration:
- Organise monthly Lunch & Learn Sessions, with speakers from outside the company, to learn how other companies have tackled the Sustainability challenge;
- Stop single use plastics in the office: Here are 15 tips on how to reduce plastic use in your workplace;
- Discuss how your company can promote active travel and working from home, to encourage the use of more sustainable commute options;
- Develop a Sustainability training module for all new employees in the company, or devise ways in which you can make Sustainability part of your business’ performance reviews;
- Organise activities for Earth Day, or for other important environmental days in the year;
- Develop a strategy to make yours a paperless office;
- Ask staff to develop Green New Year’s Resolutions;
- Come and explore GAP’s team based volunteering options in our GLAS community gardens;
- Take part in Global Action Plan’s annual climate competitions for businesses.