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Employee Sustainability Engagement

Modern office buildings have undergone a substantial evolution over the past 20 years since the first certified green buildings emerged in the UK, spread to North America and then to the rest of the world. Locational elements, transport access, physical building characteristics (such as HVAC) and building management systems, alongside technical facilities management improvements, have all contributed to increased building quality and occupant wellbeing. However, an often overlooked key constituent to a sustainable building during its everyday life are its occupiers. They can play an important role in bringing personal sustainability initiatives to fruition, even if office premises have not been built explicitly to green certification standards.

In this issue of the Global Sustainability Perspective we look at what it takes to create a strategy that successfully engages employees in sustainability initiatives. We also provide some concrete examples of how major companies around the world are tackling this issue.

Engaged Employees

Companies want to engage their employees for a variety of reasonsand with a range of goals, but improving productivity is certainly a common purpose. Over recent years, a number of studies have illustrated how an engaged workforce can positively contribute to acompany’s business and financial success. Towers Watson in its 2012 Global Workforce

Study1 found that engaged employees lostonly eight days in productivity per year against the 14 days of disengaged employees. Earlier Gallup2 research revealed that highlevels of employee engagement were clearly linked to increased productivity and profitability.

As an increasing number of organisations are now focused on aligning their work force strategies with their corporate responsibility goals, rating agencies have taken a stronger interest in tracking their impact on performance.

Employee engagement has traditionally been monitored and measured from a pure human resource management perspective, and used to help companies attract and retain skilled, innovative and productive employees. However, with the emergence of green buildings and environmental sustainability imperatives, corporations are now driving employee engagement along those axes. As a consequence, property management and human resource leaders are increasingly working together to build successful employee sustainability engagement programs.

Jones Lang LaSalle has assisted major corporations across the globe in the design and the roll-out of such programs. As withother corporate initiatives, there is a significant difference between well-intentioned individual efforts and a strategic and holistically designed employee engagement program.

Three-Phase Approach

A successful employee sustainability engagement program is based on a clear strategy, goals and metrics. Its implementation involves three main phases:raising awareness, building engagement and maintaining commitment.


Raising Awareness

Inform and educate employees on key sustainability issues and link them to the overall business strategy.

Case Study - Grainger plc, UK: Aligning Sustainability with Core Business Strategy through Engagement

In 2012, UK-based Grainger plc, a leading residential landlord and property manager, decided that in order to make corporate responsibility (CR) a way of doing business within the company, it needed to increase internal engagement with a corporate responsibility strategy. And to be credible, its CR initiatives needed to be clearly aligned to the company’s core business objectives.

To initiate a new approach, a dedicated half-day innovation workshop was held; the ‘CR Innovation Day’ was sponsored by Grainger’s Executive Board. Attended by 10% of the business, the workshop theme was increasing the resilience of the business to potentially adverse future trends in the UK housing sector. External speakers shared lessons learned on how they had embedded corporate responsibility in their organisations, gave their views on the key trends affecting sustainability and corporate responsibility in the housing market, and challenged Grainger on how it was addressing these. Participants completed a SWOT analysis of Grainger’s business strategy and the impact on CR of the key housing trends over the next 5 to10 years.

In a post-event survey, 100% of participants reported they would like to continue to contribute to the development of Grainger’s CR strategy and to attend similar future events. Peter Couch, COO, said: “The CR Innovation Day made clear the passion for making CR a living part of the way we do things at Grainger. Involvement of the external speakers was an inspiration in itself. I am committed to encouraging my fellow executives and the Board as a whole to ensure we give CR the focus it needs.”

One year on, staff at Grainger continue to talk about the CR Innovation Day as the moment when they really began to understand what corporate responsibility meant and how it affected their job role. Customer service was identified as a key focus area and is being addressed through initiatives led by the CEO, Andrew Cunningham, and Nick Jopling, Executive Director with responsibility for property. From a committed few, responsibility for CR has now spread throughout  the organisation, from senior leadership to customer facing staff. This, we have come to believe, is what building sustainable companies is all about – engaging staffing changing the face of their own organisations.


Building Engagement

Identify sustainability champions and motivate employees to connect with the program vision and goals, and to adopt sustainable behaviour which leads to action. Let employees

know what difference their actions are making and how they can influence the future of the sustainability program.

Case Study - Bank of America: My Environment Program – Ambassadors driving action around the globe

With over 270,000 employees Bank of America’s employee population has the scale to have a significant impact to help solve environmental issues. Its employees were looking for an active, meaningful role in helping it meet its environmental targets. As a result, the bank started the ”My Environment” program in August of 2010 and it has already grown to over 12,000 active participants (friends) in 26 countries and over 1445 ambassadors in 11 countries.

Most importantly the program has evolved from one focused solely on educating employees on environmental topics to an action oriented global community dedicated to helping Bank of America meet its environmental operations goals . The bank mobilizes its employees to serve as stewards of the environment at work and at home, across the globe, and within every line of business and support group. The My Environment  Ambassadors are volunteers who seek to increase employee participation in and understanding of environmental issues in the workplace, at home and in their communities.

What My Environment Ambassadors do:

  • Host educational sessions for all interested employees on important environmental topics
  • Gather and share success stories
  • Participate in and/or facilitate environmental volunteer opportunities in the community
  • Recruit other employees to become My Environment Ambassadors
  • Provide feedback to the Global Environmental Group, the bank’s internal team that works full-time on strategic environmental initiatives
  • Act as a resource to other employees for environmental stewardship

While the My Environment Ambassadors play a leadership role, all employees are welcome to participate in the local educational sessions, online discussion forums, expert speaker webcasts and volunteer activities.

The My Environment program contributes to the company’s operational targets that it plans to achieve by 2015:

  • 20% LEED certification within its corporate workplace portfolio (As of the third quarter of 2012, 16% of Bank of America’s workplace portfolio (18.5 million square feet) is comprised of LEED-certified space)
  • 25% reduction in energy consumption (2004 baseline)
  • More than 30% aggregate reduction in global GHG emissions (2004 baseline)
  • 20% reduction in paper consumption (2010 baseline)
  • 20% reduction in global water consumption (2010 baseline)
  • 70% diversion of global waste from landfill.

In close collaboration with Bank of America’s corporate workplace teams, a group of Energy & Sustainability Champions from Jones Lang LaSalle’s facility management team help connect corporate environmental initiatives with the bank's regular facility management activities.


Maintaining Commitment

Scale-up pilot projects through repeatable processes for broad-scale application. It is not sufficient to have put in place a few successful but isolated pilot projects that often

are driven by passionate local leaders. To foster engagement and develop long term commitment for sustainable actions it is necessary to develop repeatable processes that can be applied in other non-pilot scheme offices. It is fundamental to put in place best practice and innovative idea sharing tools. Program leadership needs to provide recognition to transform changed behaviour into continued action.

Case Study - CA Technologies: Harnessing Employee Creativity for Sustainable Action

The Sustainability Office at CA Technologies, with assistance from Jones Lang LaSalle, piloted employee engagement ‘Green Teams’ in three offices - Paris, Sydney and Framingham, Massachusetts (USA). The success of these pilots led to the creation of multiple Green Teams.

CA Technologies launched the global Green Team program to leverage employees’ energy and ideas, and to empower them to move the company’s sustainability strategy forward.

“Employee engagement is the foundation for the Green Team program’s success,” explains Cynthia Curtis, Chief Sustainability Officer. “We aim to institute a Green Team captain in each office to champion the cause, harness employee creativity and turn ideas into sustainable actions.”

Pilot programs conducted in Paris, Sydney and Framingham last year produced impressive results, enabling CA Technologies to act on the employees’ ideas and to track progress. Most notably:

  • The Paris Green Team helped their colleagues reduce overall paper consumption by 10.5%;
  • The Sydney Green Team conducted a recycling audit and reported that 85 - 90% of their general office waste is being recovered and sold for recycling and/or reuse; and
  • The Framingham Green Team’s “Bring out Your Dead” initiative encouraged employees to turn in old, unused electronic equipment resulting in the collection of more than 120 devices and the creation of an annual recycling event.

The Sydney Green Team tackled three separate areas identified in a local pre-pilot employee survey:

Sydney Office Recycling Audit

Use desk side and utility area recycling bins provided.

The team toured and audited the Material Recycling Facility where Sydney Office waste and recycling is processed. This showed that 85 - 90% of office waste is recovered and sold for recycling and reuse.

The quality of the office paper recycling was improved when it was discovered that the cleaners were empting desk side office paper recycling into the building comingled recycling bins instead of emptying into office paper recycling bins.

Environmentally Friendly Transport

Use ecoLimo for taxi and limo use. The number of additional uses was recorded and showed a three fold increase based on prior months.

A “Ride to Work Day” produced a twofold increase on the numbers who participated the year prior.

‘Just Turn It Off ’

Turn off PCs, monitors and office appliances when work areas are left for extended periods. The team conducted three late night audits and noted a 13% decrease in devices left ‘on’.

Turn off gym equipment, flat screen TVs and equipment in training/demo rooms when not in use. Extra checks were put in place to ensure this equipment is powered off while the rooms are not in use.

A post-pilot employee survey found positive increases in employees' understanding of CA Technologies’ commitment to sustainability, the company’s adoption of Green Teams and employees’ willingness to recommend CA Technologies as a great place to work.

Most recently, the Sustainability and Community Affairs departments joined forces to support employees at a charity cycling event by providing the riders with apparel displaying – and in turn raising awareness of - CA Technologies’ corporate social responsibility message. Employees in turn raised thousands of dollars for a well regarded charity, whilst also improving fitness and enjoying team riding.

Jen Dudgeon, from CA Technologies Sustainability Office, leads the Green Team captains and co-captains in global biweekly meetings for sharing ideas and experiences. She states, “Each location has unique sustainability issues and Green Team members from around the globe allow us as an organisation to expand and accelerate our capability”.

Curtis concludes, “The enthusiasm, involvement and dedication of employees inspired by our pilots continue to grow. I know many employees want to get involved and share ways to become more socially and environmentally responsible and this is their chance.”

CA Technologies now has Green Teams in locations that represent more than half the number of employees worldwide. The Green Team’s hope is for all 130 offices to embrace this program.

Lessons Learned

  • Education and constant visibility is essential to gain traction.

    It is not enough to simply create an employee program. Its success requires constant nurturing and visibility within the organisation. Providing regular opportunities for employee involvement will enable them to feel connected to the program. One needs to show the ‘when, where and why’.
  • Use metrics to track progress against goals - be sure to establish baseline data.

    Having clear performance measurements enables a company to track progress against its sustainability goals. Once the baseline data has been established, regular tracking and reporting of metrics shows progress against the baseline. The ability to demonstrate improvement will be beneficial from a reputational standpoint as well as for the attraction/retention of employees.
  • Communicate effectively and visibly.

    Effective communication is essential for success. Defining clear, pertinent messages and utilising channels that are appropriate to the target audience are essential. This also might mean using multiple communication vehicles to reach the same target audience. Employees respond well to visible reminders. Communications, whether in the form of bulletin board flyers, videos, posters or other types of collateral, help to keep sustainability ‘top of mind’ for employees.
  • Implicate senior management and mobilise grassroots ideas.

    Depending on local or national cultures, the effectiveness of different ways to motivate people or to drive action needs to be recognised. Some audiences respond better to top-down mandates while others are more inspired by ideas developed or put in place by peers and colleagues.
  • For global programs, local implications need to be taken into account.

    Consider the unique implications of each country or region that you are targeting, so that your message is both relevant and effective in terms of language differences, regional holidays or existing national initiatives.
  • Initiatives can establish context and increase success of existing company programs.

    Effective employee programs can help a company achieve its goals by increasing adoption of existing initiatives. For example, a recycling program might be exponentially more successful if the facilities teams employ effective communication strategies (e.g. signage), as well as training, so that employees understand the importance of recycling as well as the ‘how to’.
  • Anticipate the space and staffing requirements before implementing initiatives.

    Many initiatives require additional support and resources in order to be effective. Consider these needs before implementing an initiative, so that the required resources are available and coordinated.
  • Consider rewarding employees for achievements.

    Incentives and rewards can be an effective way of increasing engagement among employees. By being rewarded for their achievements, employees are incentivised to participate. It also sends a clear message that the company is committed to having a successful sustainability program.

Our experience of advising a wide range of real estate companies over the last 15 years suggests that a successful sustainability program needs to include engagement, such as interviews with key staff, all employee surveys, workshops, and working groups with specific goals. Through an inclusive process, the passions, ideas and experiences of staff are woven into a company’s strategy, which makes it both more practical and more interesting for the people who have to implement it. Very importantly, the strategy must be easy to communicate. It is often said “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”; however, just as important is the truism that “if you can’t communicate where you’re going, you’re not going to get there”. Engaging employees in developing your program will result in a sustainability strategy that is ambitious, meaningful, and relevant to the marketplace and your organisation’s business strategy.

1 2012 Global Workforce Study, Towers Watson, 2012
2 The Next Discipline, Applying Behavioral Economics to Drive Growth and Profitability, Gallup, 2009

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