Environmental · Article

Workforce Education to Protect the Planet

Catherine CampbellCatherine Campbell
January 5, 2023
youB member since 2023
10 publications
Values this work is based on:
Purpose: Encourage environmentally conscious practices in the workplace to help people feel healthier, more satisfied, and more driven to thrive at work.
4m Read

By Catherine Campbell

Educating and engaging your workforce in your company’s sustainability journey can have big benefits environmentally, socially, and financially. When your employees are empowered to explore ideas for greening your operations, you just may see some substantial cost savings either through increased efficiencies or through innovation like creating closed loop business models. While some of your employees may already be sustainable in their home environment, many may not have yet been introduced to things like the importance of recycling or reducing plastic consumption. Principles learned in the workplace are often brought into the household and shared. Working in a green environment, whether in a LEED certified building or simply allowing plants at worker’s desks, can lead to happier and more productive employees. 

If you’re looking for more in-depth information, the Stanford Social Innovation Review has a great article discussing the benefits of educating your workforce in sustainability with plenty of real company examples like Unilever, IBM, and Marks & Spencer.

The Green Business Bureau has a quick read on “4 Ways to Provide In-House Sustainability Training for Employees” that has some simple suggestions on company-wide education. Make sure you take a look at their number one suggestion to host learning sessions. This section has a great link to a number of educational videos, be sure to watch them advance to make sure they are office appropriate.

We found a simple example/case study in the Japanese company, Fancl. Take a look at how this company actually put these principles into practice. It may give you some good ideas for your own company. 

Employee education does require some thought – how will you communicate to your employees? Workshops, all company meetings, training programs? As discussed above, one place to start is with short educational videos shown during all company meetings while discussing your company’s sustainability program/policy. Be sure to keep things short and to the point to keep everyone’s attention. NBC Nightly News aired a great video on ocean plastic that provides good information, in an office appropriate format, and makes a great impact. Check out the video here.

If you’re interested in starting a green team at your workplace, Greenbiz has a nice article that defines what a green team is, how to build a business case for a teamits creation, and best practices. Basically, green teams are employee volunteers that help to foster sustainable principles within your company. From ensuring there are enough recycling bins to devising new, more sustainable ways of completing operations on the manufacturing floor, green teams can provide improved morale and help you to identify cost efficiencies. It’s really a win-win for your entire company. Here are the article’s ten best practices:

10 Best Practices for Green Teams (Greenbiz)

  1. Start with the visible and tangible: focus on internal operations
  2. Get senior management involved, but don’t lose the grassroots energy
  3. Engage employees to capture ideas
  4. Communicate and share best practices
  5. Engage employees with their bellies: the low carbon diet campaign
  6. Engage employees in their personal lives
  7. Engage customers to be part of the solution
  8. Use art to raise awareness
  9. Create a toolkit to support and guide green teams
  10. Align green teams with corporate sustainability goals

Harvard University asked for learnings and advice from their own green team. It’s worth a read for first- person experience. Two of the tips, holding regular meetings and engaging building services may be the most helpful, as you’ll need support from janitorial, landscaping, and safety, whether you lease or own your office space.

Finally, youB also has great resources to help your company to be more environmentally and socially responsible (ESR). The youB ESR Assessment and Learning Tools make it easy to engage your workforce, strengthen your ESR workplace, and earn recognition as a great place to work. Your companyAnd individual employees can earn a certification, via series of ESR workshops that support organizational development of ESR practices, that will identify you as an environmentally and socially responsible organization to your customers and suppliers internal consultants.

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