ESG leaders know better than anyone that sustainable companies have an edge when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, especially Gen Z.  

In a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 86% of people whose employers have ESG-related goals said those goals make them proud to work there, make their jobs more meaningful, and make them want to stay at the organization. Unfortunately, that message doesn’t always resonate with corporate boards, who control the purse strings for company sustainability initiatives. 

That creates a bit of a quandary for CSOs: how do you get people excited and engaged enough to execute sustainability projects without the help of a lofty budget? Try these tips. 

Empower Your Employees 

One of the signs of a successful CSO is the ability to make an impact through others. Since it’s human nature to feel more connected to the ideas we come up with ourselves, giving employees the opportunity to shape your company sustainability initiatives will go a long way to gaining their buy-in.  

Create forums or green teams where sustainability-minded staff can share ideas and identify opportunities. Then enable them to move forward with as little interference as possible. This sense of ownership is a great intrinsic motivator and will help employees feel like they’re personally making a difference. 

Tailor Your Training 

Sustainability workshops, webinars, or boot camps that are too general can leave employees feeling frustrated, especially if only a small portion of the material applies to their roles.  

Instead, try to offer more targeted training sessions that are not only specific to your industry, but also to individual departments, skills, and roles. This allows for more relevant guidance that will help employees make smart decisions within their teams and show them how their efforts connect to your organization’s purpose

Partner with Local Groups 

Getting people involved with environmental initiatives or other sustainability projects in the community can help unify employees as they work together toward a common goal—and hopefully have some fun while they do it.  

 As a bonus, this can also increase the visibility of your organization’s commitment to sustainable practices, both to current staff and prospective team members.  

Encourage Healthy Competition 

As any gamer will tell you, there’s nothing like watching your score climb up the leaderboard to keep you engaged. Leverage people’s competitive spirits by gamifying your company sustainability initiatives. Use team challenges and award points for the behaviors you want to encourage. Make the leaderboard public and update it regularly.  

Recognize and Reward 

Whether you opt for a gamified system of incentives or not, it’s smart to use a variety of ways to single out, praise, and reward employees who are contributing to your sustainability goals. Don’t be shy to publicly name-check folks in meetings for their efforts—and use prizes, such as paid-time off to volunteer, to show how much they are appreciated.  

Share Success Stories 

Use the power of storytelling to show employees the benefits of getting involved.  

A well-placed item in your social feeds, newsletters, or intranet about a successful initiative or event—complete with photos of smiling employees enjoying themselves or basking in praise—can motivate the holdouts to take more of an interest in future sustainability projects.  

Similarly, infographics or videos can be an effective and accessible format for communicating progress on key metrics and other data to employees at all levels.

ESG & Sustainability

For a sustainable future, you must change for good

Foster Feedback 

Create a hub for sharing ideas, asking questions, and providing feedback on your company sustainability initiatives, perhaps using a Slack or Teams channel.  

You can also use this space to push out polls to gauge what is or isn’t resonating with staff and why. There should be a way for employees to pass along feedback or suggestions privately in case they don’t feel comfortable voicing it themselves in a public forum. 

Create a Mentor Network 

Pair new employees interested in sustainability with mentors in the organization that have more experience in the area. This is not only an effective way to share best practices but can also help you identify and support burgeoning sustainability leaders within your ranks

Use Strategic Timing 

Schedule awareness-raising events and training to take place just prior to the start of your organization’s annual budgeting process. That way, your company sustainability initiatives will be top of mind as your teams are making their spending decisions for the coming year. 

Move the Culture Needle 

Even when the budget for sustainability projects falls short, CSOs can use these strategies to help motivate employees to get involved and foster a positive ESG culture within your organization.  

And it does come down to culture, after all. That’s why more than half (57%) of executives at the 2022 World’s Most Admired Companies admitted that their organization’s culture would need to change to support the execution of their ESG strategy.  

In other words, even if you had an unlimited budget for green initiatives in the workplace, you might still need to find ways to change the attitudes and behavior of staff at all levels if you want to achieve your goals. 

To become a truly sustainable business, you need to look at things differently. We can help with that. Or if you’re looking for more immediate insights on how to up your company’s sustainability game, discover the six key differentiators of leading ESG firms

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