Building Green Awareness: Educating Employees about Sustainability

Educating staff members about sustainability can prove to be a challenge for any management or human resources team. Yet employee engagement is a crucial to the success of your company’s green initiatives. By training your personnel as you introduce policies and procedures, you will empower people to implement new practices effectively, producing better results and moving your company closer to achieving its goals.

Here are some thoughts from the Green Business Bureau about how to introduce green initiatives and employee training at your place of business.

Send a Clear, Unified Message

Raising awareness about environmental issues can be as simple as sending a memo directly to employees (regarding a new policy) or placing recycling bins next to trash cans (so that employees are conscious of the opportunity to recycle materials). Remember that regular engagement is important: Employees who support sustainability efforts by participating in ongoing projects can feel ownership, responsibility, and pride in working to reach the company’s goals.

People are more likely to adopt practices that they fully understand, so provide employees with a clear starting point, a final goal, and a path for reaching that goal. Training also builds camaraderie and encourages a united group effort toward the implementation of green initiatives. A unified approach can help you to determine which policies and procedures work best, as well as to identify any barriers that need to be overcome in order to reach specific targets.

Enlist Mentors and Consultants

One of the most effective approaches to training is mentoring. If you don’t already have one, assemble a “green team” and assign responsibility for particular areas or tasks to specific employees. The knowledge that these team members have or gain in researching, designing, and organizing sustainability efforts makes them uniquely qualified to guide other staffers as new policies and procedures are put into place.

Larger projects or those that require specialized knowledge may require outside consulting. Make sure to include employee training as an element of any consulting engagement, whether this is a meeting with your green team or a broader presentation to all staff. Knowledgeable experts who understand the importance of the project can often most effectively communicate the reasons for particular changes or approaches to those changes.

Provide Ample Resources

Give your staff members the tools and information they need to take appropriate actions. For example, all Green Business Bureau certified businesses are provided with a workplace poster that describes the importance of sustainability and offers basic details about green issues in the workplace. You can make any written policies (such as sustainability vision statements, recycling guidelines, green purchasing standards, etc.) available to employees in printed materials or electronically through your intranet.

Similarly, designate a particular staff member as the point person to whom employees may direct questions about your green initiatives. By registering people’s queries and concerns, this staffer can also help you to identify and address anything that needs broader clarification. (For example, if an issue arises often, you or your green team might address it in a company-wide newsletter.) This staffer also can serve as a conduit for ideas to travel from employees to management, particularly if you’ve hired people who possess special knowledge that could help you reach your sustainability goals.

Employee education can benefit all facets of your operation. By taking the right steps to training and supporting your green initiatives, you’ll encourage stronger employee “buy in” and be one step closer to achieving your sustainability goals.

About Marcos Cordero

Marcos J. Cordero is the co-founder and CEO of the Green Business Bureau, a leading green business certification organization that helps small and mid-sized businesses implement sustainability practices.
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