Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Benefits of Employee Engagement in Sustainability

Employee engagement is a key business driver for organizational success and plays an important role in producing sustainable change. Helping employees to engage is a powerful tool to integrate sustainability thinking into company operations.

In this increasingly competitive global marketplace employee engagement is critical for success. Companies are now looking seriously at ways of competing for talent.

A 2011 Greenbiz article reported that "engaged employees are a major benefit to businesses of all types." They cited the Gallup organization which dubbed employee engagement as "a leading indicator of financial performance" and backed it up with research showing that "engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry."

The relationship between engagement and socially and environmentally responsible organizations was demonstrated in a 2010 a study by Hewitt and Associates.

In 2013, fostering employee sustainability engagement is increasingly getting well deserved attention. Leading companies recognize that preparing employees to address a resource constrained world provides numerous benefits that improve a company's competitive positioning.

Here is a list of ten potential business benefits derived from engaging employees in sustainability:

1. Securing employee support for in-house sustainability programs
2. Improving efficiency and reducing costs
3. Augmenting risk mitigation
4. Growing workplace innovation
5. Increasing employee productivity (Koch & Glaves, 2010)
6. Attracting and retaining a talented work force
7. Enhancing public perception and customer loyalty
8. Promoting a holistic culture of conservation
9. Increasing stakeholder value
10. Improving organizational performance and the bottom line

The value of employee sustainability engagement is the topic of a March 28, 2013 press release, which reviews Jones Lang LaSalle's (JLL) latest Global Sustainability Perspective (GSP) report.

JLL is a financial services company that offers specialized real estate services. With annual revenue of $3.9 billion, JLL operates in 70 countries from more than 1,000 locations worldwide. On behalf of its clients, the firm provides management and real estate outsourcing services to a property portfolio of 2.6 billion square feet. Its investment management business, LaSalle Investment Management, has $47.0 billion of real estate assets under management.

JLL publishes quarterly online reports that cover a range of timely energy, sustainability and climate issues. The most recent report acknowledges that sustainability is about more than being socially responsible, an effectively engaged workforce can also enhance profits.

Dan Probst, Chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services at JLL said that "companies can improve their bottom line by showing employees how they can participate in sustainability programmes, and by seeking employee input on ways to continually enhance those programmes."

The Global Sustainability Perspective report breaks down the employee engagement process into three essential phases

1. Raising awareness
2. Building engagement
3. Maintaining commitment

The report looks at three real world examples of employee sustainability engagement from Grainger plc, Bank of America and CA Technologies. These companies use a variety of techniques to educate employees and increase engagement including seminars, campaigns, and pilot projects.

These efforts not only improve the bottom line and entrench employee loyalty regarding sustainability they also produce tangible effects that benefit the environment. For example CA Technologies' Green Teams drove colleagues in Paris to reduce paper consumption by 10.5 percent and measured the waste stream in Sydney to raise the percentage of recycling/reuse to between 85 to 90 percent of overall waste.

Bank of America’s My Environment initiative, is on track to for a more than 30 percent aggregate reduction in global GHG emissions by 2015 against a 2004 baseline, and a 70 percent diversion of global waste from landfill by 2015.

Engaging employees in sustainability is undeniably complex but the right combination of culture building, organizational communication and responsible management can provide a plethora of benefits that help businesses to be more competitive.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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