Making sustainability fun for employees

Faced with the very real impact of climate change, companies across the globe are aligning with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to assess and change how their activities affect the environment. Today, corporate sustainability has risen beyond piecemeal, nice-to-have activities to strategic, enterprise-wide practices.

So, how can leaders encourage green behavior in a way that is fun, engaging, and long-term? Here are some examples from companies that got it right:

a) Link sustainability to personal choices

Transitioning corporate charter items into workplace reality needs some innovative thinking. Sony Electronics nailed this through their online Green Workspace Certification, launched to meet their green management goals in 2015. The program aimed at encouraging employees to make eco-friendly choices by aligning their actions with the overarching vision of sustainability.

The program was divided into four levels with scorecards, metrics, and awards. Those who achieved the final level and completed the certification won the honour of having 50 trees planted in their name! Three of the topmost actions during the program were personal travel choices such as holding virtual meetings, driving instead of flying, and using ride sharing to get to work. The program also included smaller goals like opting for reusable coffee mugs and installing a reusable dustbin within one’s office space. A resounding success, the program helped Sony save USD 11,000 in 6 months. But more importantly, it created a relevant and personal platform for employees to identify where they could make effective sustainable choices.

b) Use CSR as a platform

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can be a valuable tool for companies to do more than donate money. It can help employees to leverage their skills and address pressing global concerns.

One example is FedEx Cares, the volunteering arm of FedEx’s CSR. The platform matches employee interests to various initiatives across the world, providing them with avenues to implement their skills. One of its most recognized actions was the translocation of sea turtles, whose nests and eggs were endangered following the 2010 oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico. For over 2 months, FedEx dedicated climate-controlled trucks and drivers to relocate the turtles to Florida. FedEx employees pooled in their efforts, right from designing specialized crates for transportation to creating awareness with live updates. By leveraging the company’s business strengths, logistics expertise, and employee skills, FedEx Cares illustrates how companies can internalize sustainability and motivate employees to be part of local and global conservation efforts.

c) Gamify sustainability for greater engagement

Gamification aims to sensitize and mobilize people through meaningful and engaging narratives that deliver a clear-cut message and teach long-term behaviors. Some companies and even governments are using the principles of gamification to drive their sustainability agendas.

The travel and tourism industry has a large carbon footprint as tourist behaviors tend to lean towards higher consumption and extravagance. To reduce this, places like Italy and the Netherlands are using gamification to keep travelers environmentally aware. The Netherlands has released an app whereby tourists are rewarded for making eco-friendly travel choices such as using public transportation or even biking. Users win points for responsible behavior, which can be redeemed for meals and drinks in partner cafes and restaurants! In Italy, the BetterPoints system follows the same principles, throwing in rewards like ice cream, beer, and even movie tickets into the mix.

For companies looking to use gamification, platforms such as Green&Great and WeAct use simulations and real-life activity challenges in a playful manner to stimulate creative thinking and motivate employees to make a sustainable difference.

Sustainability is about encouraging people to make active green choices every day. So, go ahead, customize, and test out these examples to see which one works for your team. Good luck!

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