I sat down to write this blog with two major questions percolating through my mind. The first: what truly tips the scales for businesses thinking about transitioning into a greener workplace? And second, just how do colleagues who already see the benefits of a green office get leadership and other employees on board with the switch?
In order to construct a solid case for your company (and its workforce) to go green, it’s been helpful for me and my journey launching Pawprint to understand the actual psychology behind meaningful, lasting behaviour change. So before I jump into the why, here’s a bit on the how.
Great change requires great communication
First things first: have a communication plan. Knowing why it’s smart to make your office carbon neutral/negative is one thing, but having the ability to powerfully communicate it can make a massive difference to your argument.
There’s a whole world of information out there on effective communication. A particular favourite, which delves into the psychology of why people do or don’t embrace change, is this TEDTalk by sociology professor Jeni Cross. In terms of your crusade to get your office on the green train, this video teaches you that how you present information matters. I highly recommend taking a watch before you start constructing your business case.
Another goody is this TEDTalk by organizational psychologist Niro Sivanathan, who explores the best way to make a good point. Hint: it’s quality not quantity.
And lastly, because it wouldn’t feel right not to mention it; I highly recommend reading BJ Fogg’s ‘Tiny Habits’. It’ll arm you with a strategy for how to change behaviour once you’ve got buy-in. Fogg actually worked with my mentor on Virgin Pulse and we’ve used his research and theories to guide us as we build Pawprint for Business. Our tool helps businesses engage employees on environmental initiatives, so if you’re looking for solutions you could suggest in your proposal, look no further. But more on us in a bit...
Convincing the top—the why
Now that you’ve spent some time thinking about how you’re going to communicate your point, let me help with why your workplace should listen to you.
The most striking ‘why’ is of course the damage that we’re doing to the planet and the fact that life is only going to get harder if nothing is done to reverse climate change. The UK’s Net Zero pledge, the Paris Agreement, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals—they’re all really strong ‘whys’ which I hope are already swimming around in the minds you’re trying to convince. But the thing about these is that they’re not directly personal to your workplace. You’ve got to include some ‘whys’ that impact the business. These could include:
Big, strategic reasons, like:
The fact that sustainability is now an existential matter for businesses; those that don’t have green blood coursing through their veins will die. In 2021 and beyond, customers won’t buy, investors won’t invest and talent won’t stay unless you have a clear and communicated sustainability strategy and are making inroads to achieve your targets. Don’t believe me? Check out this article I wrote last year on ‘Why scaling down CSR initiatives during an economic downturn is a mistake’. It’s packed full of stats and quotes that back me up.
Smaller tactical reasons, like:
- The significant savings to be enjoyed from a switch to green, be that from reduced energy bills to savings on office resources and equipment.
- Employees stay longer when they’re happy and plenty of studies prove a green office is a happier, more productive and attractive place to work.
- Productivity comes from employees feeling part of something bigger. Pawprint is really good at helping businesses channel employee’s passion for fighting climate change towards their overarching goals. Find out more here.
A top tip from someone who is ‘one of those decision makers’: get back up. First, talk to your colleagues and figure out who your allies are—the other sustainability champions who will step up when called to action to start steering the company towards a greener future.
Then, find individuals who have influence in your company, and care about your cause, and get them on your side. If you have someone on the top table who will fight your corner, things will move along so much faster. The good news is, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t at least one person who cares about climate change at the top. You might even find that it’s part of their objectives to improve workplace sustainability, so being approached by you and your fellow eco-warriors will be music to their ears.
Must-try techniques to motivate the unmotivated
So you’ve identified your sustainability allies, made an un-ignorable business case, got the green light (pun intended), now what? Well, there may still be a few stragglers who are a little set in their ways and it’s important to bring them along on the journey if you can.
The tool myself and the rest of the Pawprint team have been creating for the past two years focuses on ensuring that there’s something for everyone. Our mantra is that fighting climate change isn’t about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do. And dang it, it should be fun while you’re doing it!
Pick up the stragglers by sprinkling a bit of fun into the mix; some companies I know have set up green dream teams to organise regular Friday eco dares or a pub quiz with an environmental theme and km-zero drinks from a local brewery for the winners. With Pawprint for Business, employees can set up groups and work together towards a common carbon reduction goal. I know I’m biased, but I believe it’s a great way for companies to engage all employees on sustainability initiatives. And once they see the snowball effect of what everyone’s individual effort collectively looks like, it’s amazing how motivated they become to find even more creative ways to reduce their carbon footprint.