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How to Engage Employees in your Carbon Management Strategy

The SSC Team February 10, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Here is a blog post from 2013 that we think you would enjoy again:

If your CEO walked down the hallways of your organization and popped his or her head into a dozen offices, how many people would be able to answer these questions?

  • What are the key business activities driving our carbon footprint?
  • How has our carbon footprint changed over the last five years?
  • How is your department contributing to our corporate emissions profile?

If you're like 99% of other businesses, you probably have not been engaging employees on the issues of climate change, carbon emissions, and greenhouse gas reduction. At least -- not in a meaningful way. If the main answer you get from employees is, "we turn off the lights and shut down our computers at night," you are missing the boat. There is a much bigger role for employees to play and by fully engaging them on the topic, your organization can reap big benefits.

There are dozens of articles and guides on how to engage employees in sustainability -- and we've listed some of the best below. What we want to talk about today, however, are the three things that MUST be present in order for people to change their behavior. Want to get people on board with your carbon reduction goals? Can't figure out why staff can't remember to shut off the lights when they leave? Keen to encourage more "out of the box" thinking around carbon management? Here's what they need:

1. Motivation

Employees need to have a reason to participate. Because not all people are motivated by the same things, smart companies must provide multiple "motivators." Some of our favorites:

Create simple prompts -- put up signs, posters, and quick tips where they are highly visible. This can be in the hallways, on the company intranet, or in regular email communications.
Use social pressure -- studies have shown that people are more likely to participate in a workplace initiative if a colleague asks them to do it. Consider having "carbon leaders" spread throughout the company that can encourage engagement in a 1-on-1 setting.
Appeal to emotion and identity -- tie your plea into larger themes and values. For some companies, carbon management will be a natural fit with their core values (e.g. people at Google seem to naturally resonate with "green" themes). Other companies will make it more about the individual employee.

2. Ability

Staff needs the skills, confidence, and knowledge required to contribute. With any initiative, during the planning phase you need to ask yourself these questions:

Do people know what is expected of them? How will we ensure that employees are educated about the initiative and their role in it?
Do we need to provide training to specific personnel in order for this initiative to be effective? Who needs a higher level of knowledge to help it run smoothly?
Do people have the self-confidence to engage? What kind of encouragement or support do we need to provide so that people enthusiastically participate with the knowledge that they can do the job well?

3. Opportunity

Workers need the resources, relationships, and environmental conditions that allow their engagement to flourish. There are three general strategies that work here:

Empower employees: Involve them in project governance. Let on-the-ground employees determine project goals, strategies, and the tools needed to do the job. Be transparent through all areas of the project, so that everyone participating can see how it's progressing in real time. 
Strengthen social capital: Get people from different areas of the company together, both in large groups (i.e. weak ties) and smaller, more intimate ways (i.e. building bonds). When people build relationships across the organization, they are more likely to see opportunities to contribute to your carbon management initiatives.
Change the environment: Move people around, relocate the recycling bins, allow once-a-week telecommuting. Get people out of their usual workday rut and see what happens!

Want more?

Here are some of our favorite employee engagement resources:

Want to learn more about reducing your carbon footprint? Check out our white paper!

A Tale of Two Sustainability Reports

The SSC Team February 5, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

Imagine our excitement when we discovered that not one, but two of our clients in the food industry were releasing their sustainability reports on the same day. This got us thinking, How can comparing these two reports help our community? We discovered that the patterns and differences can be translated across industries to help you understand what makes a good sustainability report whether it is your first time or third.

Chicken of the Sea is the nation's leading producer of packaged seafood, producing tuna, salmon, shrimp and more, and they are published their third report. PureCircle is a producer of stevia and natural sweeteners for the global food and beverage market, and they just published their first report.

Below we explore the highlights of the two reports:

Chicken of the Sea

In their third year of reporting, Chicken of the Sea continued to make progress towards their 2020 sustainability goals (2012 baseline). Chicken of the Sea has five main focus areas for their 2020 goals:

  • Energy – reduce electricity and natural gas use by 20% each
  • Waste – reduce landfill waste by 30%
  • Water – reduce water use by 15%
  • Health & Safety – maintain/reduce safety incidents
  • Supply Chain – audit 90% of seafood procurement spend

In 2013, Chicken of the Sea saw major strides towards a lot of their goals, but there were three focus areas that really stood out: waste, water, and health & safety.

Chicken of the Sea made a concerted effort in 2013 to reduce waste that went into the landfill, and it paid off nicely: Chicken of the Sea saw a 27.8% reduction in waste. Not only did the waste focus area see a huge reduction, but so did the water focus area as well. With the goal of 15% reduction, Chicken of the Sea reduced water use by 12.8% by installing new water-saving technology. Finally, Chicken of the Sea saw a 40% lower incident rate than the previous year, staying on par with their goal.


Even though this is PureCircle’s first sustainability report, sustainability has been engrained in their business practices since the beginning. This past year, though, they wanted to increase their transparency. Their first report did an excellent job at outlining their environmental and social commitments, and how those commitments align with their 2020 Sustainability Intensity Goals.

On the environmental side, PureCircle has four main 2020 goals (against 2011 baseline):

  • Reduce carbon intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Reduce energy intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Reduce water intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Eliminate waste across farming and processing operations with zero waste to landfill

So far, PureCircle is on course to meet all of their goals, with one goal (energy intensity) already exceeding the original goal by reducing intensity by 42%.

On the social side of PureCircle’s sustainability goals, the company hopes to:

  • Support 100,000 small-scale farmers with sustainable agriculture policies
  • Ensure 100% traceability from gate to individual farm

PureCircle is working and engaging with small-scale farmers on issues such as food security, biodiversity, waste reduction, and fertilizer application to help improve not only the stevia plants, but to enrich the lives of the farmers as well.

Curious about how a SSC sustainability report might look like? Check out our previous reports here!