One of the most crucial, yet overlooked components of a successful sustainable program is development of a Staff Policy. This policy encompasses training and education programs, management and philosophy. Regardless of infrastructure and good intention, a sustainable program lacking strong policy and support will never succeed. The reason being, not only does an official staff policy demonstrate a high level of commitment by the organization, it also helps create employee buy-in as they understand it is a standard by which they are evaluated and rewarded. When looking for green venues, be sure to ask if they have a staff policy in place. If they don’t, it may be a sign that their green initiatives are superficial and may not be enforced by the staff.
Corporate Social Responsibility
An increasing number of companies, organizations, and associations are developing Corporate Social Responsibility policies (CSR). These policies inform the public and various stakeholders of the values of the organization, business ethics, and mindfulness of their impact both environmentally and socially. The depth and breadth at which the CSR influences the overall policies of a company vary. However at a minimum, for a CSR to be considered anything beyond greenwashing, employees should be trained on these policies and how they impact their day to day duties. Ideally, a Corporate Social Responsibility policy should be incorporated into all areas of the organizations including trainings, incentive packages, performance evaluations, contracting and more.
Training and Education
As with any policy or procedure, proper and adequate training and education is critical to successful implementation. This is especially true for sustainable initiatives, as these programs are often new, can be somewhat controversial, confusing, and constantly shifting. Elements of the training will vary, however they must include the following:
- Overview of program in a atmosphere conducive to interaction (also considered the WHAT)
- Demonstrate importance of program, reason for implementation, and future goals (the WHY)
- How the employee with directly participate, such as change in procedure (the HOW)
- Methods to ensure and gauge employee understanding and retention
- Written commitment by high level management and/or executives
- Signed commitment by employee stating understanding and compliance
- Continual survey of employees soliciting and encouraging feedback and comments
Once a program has been implemented, and employees trained, it is beneficial to offer incentives to employees, not only for compliance, but also for striving for excellence. Sustainable programs in particular embody a “feel good” element. If presented in the right light, staff not only feels proud of a job well done, but also that they are contributing to a larger overall goal … Making the world a better place. This is key to recognize and encourage. In doing so, employees will want to participate not because of policy, but because it makes them feel good. There are endless ways to encourage participation and offer incentives. Some examples are:
- Share successes of programs, both individually and overall (annual achievements)
- Acknowledge suggestions and comments given to management by staff. Implement when possible.
- Reward employees who go “above and beyond” with extra vacation, etc.
As with any policy, it is also necessary to include sustainable policy in staff performance evaluations. Again, this not only reinforces the importance and serious nature of the policies as viewed management, but also that their participation is not “voluntary.” At the same time, it is also important to allow for staff to adapt to these new policies. For many people, these are behavior and habit changes. Take for example the standard practice for a hotel housekeeper to change towels daily. If a hotel implements a linen exchange program to reduce the times linens are changed, there is a learning curve with the veteran housekeeper. In the office, it may take some time for people to realize they don’t have to print out every e-mail or that paper goes in the recycling bin. In order to ensure full participation, inform all staff of the expectation and provide them with the tools to be successful.
In conclusion, these elements all work together to help successfully implement new programs, encourage participation and engagement, and hold each staff member accountable. Check in next month when to learn about communication to all meeting/event stakeholders including vendors, suppliers, attendees, and staff.