Undoubtedly, changing perceptions and behaviour can be difficult within an organisation. However, behaviour change isn’t impossible and is certainly necessary when trying to improve an organisation’s green credentials.
This article is designed to help overcome common issues when attempting to roll out any kind of environmentally minded initiative.
Changing perceptions and behaviour can be difficult within an organisation, especially as they get bigger. However, behaviour change isn’t impossible and is certainly necessary when trying to improve an organisation’s green credentials. This is particularly case for our ISO 14001 certified clients, but is an issue to overcome when attempting to role out any kind of environmentally minded initiative.
Why make the effort?
Of course, you could take the draconian approach; force feed new policies that staff must follow. However, developing a well communicated programme can greatly increase involvement and consequent buy-in. This can result in improved staff morale, motivation and retention.
The net result of achieving company-wide buy-in is greater effectiveness of the initiative, bringing increased efficiency, competitiveness and compliance with legislation. Operational costs and business reputation can all be improved to a greater degree when everyone is pulling in the same direction.
Whilst this article is set out to help you achieve buy-in and change in culture, the reality is you will face challenges on the way. Many of us have a fear of change, and this is heightened if the reasons for change aren’t explained, if people are moved out of their comfort zones, or if feel they are not being consulted with. This isn’t helped if managers do not lead by example, or if if momentum tails off. Soon, old habits creep back and scepticism starts to take a hold once more.
Although stopping the above issues is very difficult, the key is to work from the top, down. You need the management to act as environmental champions, helping to relay your message across all departments. If your organisation is quite big, then consider getting a ‘green team’ together. They are likely to be fellow colleagues who are more interested in the environment on a personal level, and would jump at the chance of helping the organisation become more environmentally friendly.
The first steps
Before expecting change, first of all its important to get to grips with where you are now as an organisation. What resources do you use at the moment? How much do you use? How much do they cost?
Once you have a fair idea of your current position, you can then set out what you want to achieve. This could be in the form of a broad statement, such as “our aim is to improve resource efficiency in order to reduce our organisation’s impact on the environment”.
Having a single aim doesn’t mean this can’t be broken down into smaller objectives. Explaining how you will achieve can help make things become less daunting. You can have several objectives combining to achieve your aim, for example:
- Reduce waste by 10% per year for five years
- Reduce energy consumption by 20%
- Increase recycling by 50% within one year.
You can find many other great ideas when it comes to reducing waste and energy use in other guides we have published. Take a look at the selection below:
Communicating the objective
Different people will become engaged by different approaches. That’s why it is important to be prepared to use a range of techniques depending on the audience. For example, the management team may only be interested in the overall business benefits, such as how money will be saved. Office staff may appreciate more involvement, whilst cleaning staff may be interested in seeing how changes could make their jobs easier. Whoever you communicate the objective to, it’s important that you answer the crucial question – why should I care?
Establishing the right channel is also important to ensure effectiveness of communication. This could include posters and team meetings for staff. Management may get more out of a more formal meeting, with a presentation. Your clients, suppliers and other stakeholders could be updated via the company newsletter or website.
Behaviour change can be affected seriously by a lack of knowledge. If people don’t know what to do, how to do it and why it’s being done, they simply won’t do it. It’s also important that people know where to go for advice.
A selection of simple posters provides clear direction on what changes in behaviour are required to make the organisation more eco-friendly. This could be guidance from how to recycle, to using equipment more efficiently. You could include facts to help bring some perspective to what they are doing.
Small stickers are ideal ways of communicating simple messages. They could be located near light switches, radiators, windows and equipment as reminders throughout the day for your staff. As your organisations goes through the transition to become ‘green’, stickers could be that nudge to stop people reverting to their old ways.
Familiarity will lead to staff not paying attention to the above, so it’s important to keep things fresh and change things around from time to time. Keep them fresh and maintain their impact.
The communication should work both ways. A suggestion box or campaign notice board allowing staff to post comments or tips makes it easy to contribute, and brings fresh ideas into the mix.
By assessing how various meetings and awareness campaigns go, you can start to get an idea of what objectives will have the biggest impact, be easier to initiate and will cost less money and time to put into practice. Now you’re at a stage where you can plan your environmental initiative to have delivered by a set date.
As your plans progress, consider how you plan to provide feedback on how everything is going. As you review the results of objectives carried out, feed the information back to all those who are affected.
Your message will probably have to be repeated many times for people to take it fully on board and for the new behaviour to become embedded. Your life can be made easier by recruiting more environmental ‘champions’. By helping you set a good example, this can exert peer pressure onto more reluctant members of the team.