Sustainability is a good business strategy, and involving employees results in their buy-in.

What can your organization gain by increasing employee engagement in its sustainability initiatives?

Employee satisfaction. Resource conservation. Bottom line impact.

Organizations across the world are quickly adopting sustainability programs, with 94 percent of companies integrating sustainability into their strategic planning, according to a McKinsey global survey. CEOs and leaders are recognizing how sustainability is a sound business strategy that translates into proven ROI. But deciding to implement a sustainability program is only one piece of the puzzle. Many of those same leaders end up scratching their heads wondering how to get more employee buy-in.

The most important message that you can get across to your employees today is this: small and even no-cost changes in behavior can make a big difference for your business and for the planet. For example, Olentangy School District has seen firsthand how small, consistent changes in behavior equated to significant energy conservation and decreased utility costs. The school district implemented a measurement-based, low-cost energy program and were able to reduce operating expenses by $1 million dollars annually, in just two years.

It all starts with engagement. Business leaders need to listen and be receptive to all ideas and then be the most vocal and enthusiastic about sustainability. As with most newly introduced business initiatives, leading by example is a winning strategy.

What business leaders should consider:

When it comes to sustainability, each employee will be motivated to participate differently. Figuring out those different motivators and incentives can help convince doubters. For example, even most climate skeptics can get behind saving money for their company.

Whether you are looking to begin your sustainability journey or want to kick your program into high gear, here are proven strategies to help engage and empower your employees to become your greatest champions.

Give employees a voice. The easiest way to gain buy-in is to include representation from all levels of the organization in the discussions from the beginning. Allow your employees to design your sustainability program’s elements, and seek their counsel when setting goals.  

Show data. By using data from utility bills, meters and other sources, you can identify and monitor key sustainability indicators and progress towards goals. Influencing employees’ actions to conserve energy quantitatively will help you powerfully illustrate the effectiveness of your program.

Measure and report progress. It’s imperative that business leaders measure progress and continue to invest in the long-term vision of the sustainability program. Showcase progress and provide updates on the sustainability program progress and how it’s meeting or exceeding initial goals.

Most important of all, an effective sustainability program has the power to bring your employees together. As they work toward a goal that benefits their company and the environment, it’s likely you will notice an improvement in company culture and overall employee engagement.

Ryan Prestel is CEO of JadeTrack, a cloud-based sustainability software platform that uses analytics, real-time monitoring and data from thousands of providers to help organizations decrease energy costs while improving building performance and efficiency.