Good communications can help achieve meaningful progress in sustainability


Engaging employees on sustainability

Members of our Transformation & Change team attended this year’s Engaging Employees Conference in London. Drawing in heads of HR, employee engagement strategists and communication experts from blue chip companies, the room was filled with energy and a real sense of commitment to sharing insights and engaging in meaningful conversations.

Our team hosted a roundtable discussion on how to successfully engage employees on sustainability. Participants agreed that sustainability is not only a core part of business strategy but also becoming an increasingly important factor for employee satisfaction and retention. As such, it has moved to the top of the agenda for internal communicators.

Our own research* highlighted a gap between employee expectations and internal engagement around sustainability. It found that 84% of employees are concerned with environmental issues, yet 66% don’t feel well-informed about the work their company is doing around sustainability. Meanwhile 64% of respondent said it’s important to work for an employer who is aligned to their values, and 52% feel their work is more fulfilling when they can make a positive impact on social and environmental issues. The bottom line: employees want to work with companies that mirror their values and where they can see tangible action being taken. They want to be working with their company to drive change.

So, how can companies encourage employees to play an active role in their sustainability strategy? And what are the biggest challenges they are facing when trying to engage employees around sustainability?

Here are some interesting insights from roundtable participants:

Leadership commitment: Embedding sustainability within a company starts at the top. CEOs should articulate how sustainability ties into the existing company strategy and how it will enable the business to be more successful in the longer term. Furthermore, when leaders actively demonstrate their personal commitment to sustainability, it motivates employees and sets a positive tone throughout the organisation.

Making it tangible and relevant: While sustainability is increasingly important, it is not universally understood within the workplace, and some struggle to perceive the relevance in their daily business operations. Companies need to make sustainability tangible and relevant, for example by demonstrating how to integrate sustainability practices into everyday tasks and highlighting the personal benefits of engaging in sustainable actions.

Challenging preconceptions: Employees may hold various preconceptions about sustainability, such as overemphasising the focus on environmental issues and neglecting other aspects such as social and governance considerations. Addressing these preconceptions through training sessions and programmes is crucial to fostering a comprehensive understanding of sustainability and encouraging employees to actively participate in sustainable practices.

Setting KPIs and measuring success: Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) related to sustainability and regularly measuring progress is an essential motivator. Clear goals and metrics help companies and individuals track sustainability initiatives, assess their impact, and identify areas for improvement. Recognising and rewarding employees who are making efforts towards sustainability can be effective for shining a light on progress, while encouraging others to do the same.

What was clear from our discussions is that sustainability is increasingly a key driver of employer reputation, impacting an organisation’s ability to attract and retain talent. By engaging employees in their sustainability strategy, companies can create a more sustainable workplace and a more motivated workforce. But achieving meaningful progress in sustainability requires good communication to gather commitment and action from everyone within the organisation – from leaders through to frontline teams.

*From Havas/YouGov employee survey, May 2022

Read More

Contact the author

Adaora Geiger, Head of Transformation
H/Advisors Maitland


Sylvia Guisado Guzman, Consultant
H/Advisors Maitland

Julika Benz, Director
H/Advisors Deekeling Arndt

Frederica Bendit, Associate Partner
H/Advisors Maitland