In this economy, everyone is focused on cutting costs to drive higher profitability–since doing it with revenue growth is not practical until we have a sustained recovery. Sustainable business practices are a great context in which to reduce expenses. Sustainability is about using less energy or fewer resources in the course of business.

Since both have associated costs, using less is an automatic cost savings. Getting your employees engaged in sustainable business practices is a quick and efficient way to achieve those savings. While there will be some investment in communications, promotions, and incentives, it will likely be much smaller than infrastructure investments in IT, facilities, and HVAC (which can and should be part of a longer term strategy). What is more, behavioral change can be implemented relatively quickly. Some of your employees are probably already engaging in green business practices on their own. It could be as simple as turning out lights, shutting down computers, or reusing paper when printing.

However, using a structured engagement program, you have the ability to focus that energy and to drive business results. Additionally, with a social network platform you can ensure that they help drive progress by encouraging each other. A green employee engagement program should be based on a robust understanding of your employees’ attitudes and behaviors related to environmental concerns and green business practices. Survey employees to find segments composed of differing attitudes and behaviors. Then have moderated discussions with people in each segment to get insight on their perceptions and motivations.

In understanding each segment, you are prepared to conduct creative problem solving to identify ways to most efficiently implement green business goals and sustainable business practices. It also has the effect of demonstrating your commitment to involving employees, valuing their ideas, and gaining their robust support. You want that: nothing kills a green initiative faster than employee subversion tactics (like tricking a thermostat to run the air conditioning). The employee engagement program should be structured to provide regular feedback and incentives for behavioral changes. It is not an event, it is a process. It is more effective to implement as a new routine rather than with a splashy kickoff that incorrectly sets expectations of quick and dramatic change.

It will be the compounding of accumulated change that yields the most substantial results. Also, as previously noted, some of your employees have already taken the initiative to go green in some way. Establishing a forum in which everyone can learn about the results a few are having can facilitate broader change. Sharing success stories can encourage others to be supportive or even re-align their behavior to reduce energy or resource consumption at work. Meetings are great for celebrating success and rewarding results, but an easily accessible technology platform will more effectively support the knowledge transfer that is a benefit of engaged employees.

An easy way to establish this is to set up a Facebook page which employees can “fan” (beware: “friend” pages have a limited number of followers, so are impractical if you have more than 5,000 employees). If your Internet access policy precludes using this option, a SharePoint site or simple bulletin board may suffice. With a structured engagement program to drive positive behavioral change, and a network platform to facilitate information sharing, you can quickly establish momentum on green business objectives and achieve material expense reductions. Go green, get your employees involved, and start to realize the savings.

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