Employee engagement is critical to any successful carbon reduction strategy. But how do you get staff to take action? One way is to get them talking through specialist green courses, as Louise Bateman finds out.
Jane Burston is used to seeing people’s eyes glaze over. She works in the world of carbon offsetting
, where sentences like 'voluntary carbon markets’, 'emissions trading’ and 'carbon credits’ are common terms of reference. But step outside of her sector and most people don’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Burston is founder of Carbon Retirement, which as well offering an ethical carbon offsetting service to its customers, helps companies and organisations measure and manage their carbon footprint
. She knows only too well that employee engagement
is crucial to an effective carbon reduction strategy, but getting people to take individual responsibility for their carbon emissions is easier said then done.
"One of my interests is about engaging people in sustainability and I know that standing at the front of a room telling people what to do just isn’t going to cut the mustard," she explains.
With this in mind, Burston has developed an employee engagement green training programme that is based on the psychology of behaviour change. "It works like Weightwatchers and is derived from a programme called 'Carbon Conversations’," she explains.
"There is a lot of evidence to show that people’s actions don’t always match up to their values," says Burston. On the other hand, the statistics show that people are 12 times more likely to do something if they commit to it out loud.
Developed by psychotherapist Ro Randall, Carbon Conversations is a series of supportive group meetings designed for use by volunteer facilitators in community settings, to get people to cut their carbon footprint. The programme uses professionally designed, reliable materials, interactive games, and gives participants access to a carbon calculator. But most importantly, the sessions are based on a psychological understanding of how people change. It has proven successful; participants typically make individual commitments of one tonne of CO2 per course and develop plans to halve individual footprints over a four to five year period.
Like Carbon Conversations, Carbon Retirement’s employee engagement programme is run over a series of meetings, in this case five sessions over five weeks. The meetings are held during lunchtime and are themed around subjects such as travel
energy and consumption. To get staff thinking about sustainability in their normal lives, they are given pieces of homework to do and discuss at the next meeting.
Ever conscious of her participants’ eyes glazing over, Burston is always looking to add new elements to the course that will make the sessions more engaging and fun. The latest one is getting group members to create a sustainable dish to bring in and share at the next session. It’s called 'Come Dine Sustainably with Me’.
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