Stimulating environmentally friendly employee behaviour

Zeno Prast
August 3, 2022

Companies that implement nature restoration as part of the sustainability strategy can unlock more value if they bring their employees along in their journey. An often overlooked way to achieve this is to focus on changing employee behaviours to be more environmentally friendly. Here’s how you can get started.

Changing behaviours is a long-term effort that works best if there’s number of interventions or initiatives that strengthen each other. One-time initiatives do not improve behaviour instantly, and can be perceived as a lack of personal involvement or commitment by senior management. Consistent initiatives result in alignment of the values of the company and its employees, building trust and motivation. The good news is that employees are keen to be involved in the creation of these green initiatives. According to a recent UK study, 21% of workers are already involved and an additional 50% are interested in participating. Initiatives can be organised at the individual and at the group level, typically a combination of both works best.

Individual level

On an individual level workers respond well to feedback on their behaviour in the workplace. In one example, gas heating was reduced by 6% by providing information on how to do it and afterwards giving individual feedback. Again, the feedback should be consistent because a study found that after management removed feedback and support, people returned to their old behaviour. A consistent approach drives results and can help individuals feel more empowered by their employers, boosting productivity, performance and problem-solving abilities. 

Group level
On a group level, comparison and competition are powerful mechanisms to stimulate participation in green initiatives. Positive group behaviours can be operationalized using relatively simple Environmental Performance Indicators (EPI) to measure the environmental behaviour of groups of employees during office hours. These indicators can encompass the usage of recycled bins vs. general waste bins, the number of employees arriving by car and energy consumption. With these indicators the performance of groups or departments can be measured and rewarded accordingly, to encourage employees to take the sustainable options.

Setting up for success
A simple way to start setting up green initiatives at the workplace is to form a ‘green team’. Assemble a few willing employees and a member of senior management into a green team or committee that decides on projects, initiatives and rewards in the workplace. Let your employees know that they are generating results by engaging them with feedback and proof of their progress. If employees see the difference they are making, they are more motivated to keep up the behaviour that led to the positive effect on the environment. 

Senior management can further strengthen their green HRM with green incentives or rewards for employees with outstanding environmental performance. Green rewards can be seen as a range of rewards, from contributions to environmental projects to a new bicycle. But even monetary rewards shouldn’t be shunned if the initiative is well designed. We find a cool example of this in Hong Kong, where construction workers were told that they could keep a percentage of the value of the saved materials on the construction site. The rewarded group saved a total value of $186,319.19 in construction materials due to this monetary incentive. This was roughly half of the total sum that was invested into the materials, and provided a major avoidance of environmental impact associated with the materials that would have otherwise been used! Want to know more about green initiatives in the workplace? Check out our other blogs on the workplace:

Want to know more about green initiatives in the workplace? Check out our other blogs on the workplace: 

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nature restoration
sustainability strategy
green initiatives
Environmental Performance Indicators

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