The Importance of Sustainable Engagement in Environment, Health, and Safety
Leverage engagement to achieve environmental and sustainability results.
The end goal is to improve your company’s performance and competitive position. But to do that, you need to get people engaged in the hard and rewarding work of greening your core business, your strategies, your operations, and your products and services. When your employees are more knowledgeable about and connected to environmental issues, your chances of getting there go way up. But here’s the best part for tight times: engagement and behavior changes are close to free. (Andrew Winston, Green Recovery, p. 144)
Important engagement. Engagement is directed towards results in the model I offer for employee engagement. We are realizing the importance of creating and working towards results in environment, health, safety, and sustainability aspects of business and life. We must engage with these issues before the only factors that drive this engagement are fear, urgency, and panic.
NAEM Forum insight. I attended and presented at NAEM’s Forum on Environmental, Health, Safety, and Sustainability Success in the New Economic Era and was made fully aware of the importance of engagement in these key concerns. It is not my intent to outline the exceptional content from the conference, you can view nine short video interviews listed at the end of this post to learn more about the specific content. It is my intent to encourage employee engagement directed towards these important issues before our engagement is mandated by fear and limitation.
Sustainable-focused engagement is not a fad. We must engage employees fully in environment, health, safety, and sustainability issues in their work and personal lives. If we are to make changes it is fine to demand compliance, craft strategy and write policy but change comes from full engagement. Engagement is connection and if we remain disconnected from environment, health, and safety there will be few businesses and even fewer employees to engage.
From periphery to core. At times I fear that these areas of concern are perceived by many in our workplaces as an extra, not a central issue. Our resources are being depleted, our safety is at risk, and our health is threatened yet we have the power to do something about it. Yes, having a green day is a nice idea but let’s sustain this through the daily focused work of all employees from the custodian to the CEO. Andrew Winston, a keynote speaker and author of Green Recovery, concluded his presentation at the conference with the two-question quotation: If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Value and values. We must be creative and focused on the value created by our environment, health, safety, and sustainability work. These four factors touch upon so many key values in the workplace. I find engaged work in this area touches upon such values as: connection, acceptance, belonging, cooperation, communication, community, compassion, consideration, empathy, inclusion, mutuality, respect, safety, stability, security, support, trust, and wellbeing.
5 invitations to engage in environment, health, safety, and sustainability
- Make the important urgent through data and story. Make the importance of sustainability more urgent with sound data and compelling stories that encourage responses and actions rather than only ringing alarm bells that promote fear and paralyze initiative.
- Broaden the color spectrum of this work beyond green. We must engage in these issues by going in all direction at once. Beyond thinking global and acting local we can work at engaging customers and suppliers in ensuring sustainable business for the benefit of all. This is not just a green issue, it is an issue that spans every color and facet within the broad spectrum of business and work.
- Reliance on compliance is too anemic. Don’t make environment, sustainability and health just a compliance issue — make it multiple compelling and irresistible invitations. Compliance smacks of orders and power rather than authentic connection and caring to achieve important results for all. We need heartfelt and hearty actions by everyone involved in work.
- Ensure programs and events are icing not cake. Ensure programs and events are only small tangible demonstrations of a much bigger commitment to sustainability. Don’t leave your work locked in a blue box. As these issues loom larger I foresee the day when enlightened organizations will balance their strategies and decisions between two CEO’s: the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Environmental Officer.
- Stop the nonsense by making cents and sense. A lot of our current practices just don’t make sense for long term wellbeing of organizations and individuals. Ensure that your efforts are good business while also being good for business. In the long run our work and results in this area must make both cents and sense to achieve full sustainability.
Three minutes on engagement. Here is a 3 minute interview I gave after my session co-presenting with Kevin Orr, Environmental Manager – Kimberly- Clark Corp; Mark Fowler, Environmental Health and Safety Manager – Invivo, and Marty Moran, Division Environmental Manager – General Mills Inc on Engaging Employees to Realize Your EHS & Sustainability Vision. I was very impressed by the work being done by these three men in their organizations to advance a sustainable vision. (If the video fails to open in this window, click here):
Nine Interviews from the conference. To learn more about the current thinking and practices presented at the conference watch these short video interviews conducted by Elizabeth Ryan from NAEM:
- Patagonia’s Common Threads: An Unconventional Lifecycle Management Approach
- Managing Today for a Resource-Constrained Future
- Owens Corning’s Sustainability Approach
- Why Reducing Resources Can Drive Innovation
- The Importance of EHS Strategic Succession Planning
- Social Metrics: The Next Sustainability Challenge
- The Benefits of Employee Engagement
- AEP’s Sandy Nessing Reflects on Keynote Address by Author Andrew Winston
- Andrew Winston: Why the Greening of Business is a Cultural Imperative