From Words to Actions: Getting Your Team Engaged with ESG

18 August 2021

For the past 18 months we have been focussed on the immediate threat of the coronavirus and the Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019 feel like a distant memory.  

 But that’s all changing… 

 The release of the IPCC report this month warning of a Code Red for humanity is the first jolt to bring climate change back to the top of the agenda. With COP26 coming up at the end of October, we’re all looking forward to seeing our global leaders’ response and action plan to this dire warning. But we don’t need to wait around for our leaders to take action, we can act ourselves and use our company and individual resources to take a stand. 

 We don’t need to be engaging in some grandiose display of altruism to make a difference, but rather it’s the small steps that are crucial. The news can be overwhelming, but doing whatever small bit we can will positively impact our environment, our workplace and our own wellbeing.  

 So, here are some thoughts on how to get your team engaged with your ESG agenda. 

  1. Be clear on your company’s focus 

It is almost a given nowadays that companies of all sizes will have an ESG policy. But how many employees actually know it? Think about your focus and unify your ESG goals to into one clear and simple message. Maybe your company has chosen to focus on combatting plastic pollution in the ocean. This one concept can permeate every order of day-to-day business from a plastic free February in the office to a local litter pick, to a wider partnership with Plastic Ocean International. Keep the conversation going and action flowing. 

       2. Make it a priority 

There is a natural cynicism that can arise when discussing an ESG agenda as corporate virtue signalling is rampant. No more platitudes, it must be clear that the company cares and to do this ESG must be a priority and incorporated into the everyday.  

 A great example is M&S’s approach. They have instated Sustainability Champions across all their stores to keep their environmental purpose a priority. These Champions turn ideas into actions, create their own initiatives and demonstrate to other employees that ESG engagement is a valuable part of their professional lives. The majority of the time, employees will prioritise actions that best please their line managers and superiors as this is crucial for their professional development and security. This means a buy-in at every level is vital for this to work. 

       3. Lead by example 

Do we really need to say more? If you’re leadership isn’t engaged, you can’t expect the wider team to be. Lead by doing. It’s a powerful approach that will catch the attention of internal ESG sceptics 

       4. Make the space 

The M&S Sustainability Champions are also a good example of infrastructure supporting the cause. Having a one-off fundraising bake-off is good, but it’s not engaging in the long term. Incorporate your ESG goals and values into leadership and team training. You could also set up a monthly ESG Afternoon where the team can commit their time to volunteering for a local charity or litter picking in the area. And never underestimate the motivational power of a little competition… 

       5. Measure success and celebrate it 

The Code Red alert has delivered a dire warning about the scale of the environmental problem. There has been a rise in people experiencing eco-anxiety as a 2020 survey found 40% of Americans felt ‘disgusted’ or ‘helpless’ about climate change (Centre for Climate Change Communication, 2021). Showing the positive impact our actions have will combat this anxiety, and bring the community – both internal and external – together as we gain momentum. The more rewarding the work is, the more engaged employees will be. We can make a difference! 

 If you want to learn more about COP26 and how you can bring together your organisation to make an impact, then we have the webinar for you! Head here to reserve your place so you can catch 106 Founder Henry speaking with Hitachi Director Hans Daems about this important topic.  

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