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Employee Engagement in Sustainability Initiatives Helps Bottom Line

Bank of America’s My Environment employee initiative grew to 12,000 active employee participants in 26 countries within two years of its inception — just one example of how companies are engaging employees in sustainability initiatives and reaping financial benefits, according to a report by Jones Lang LaSalle.

The financial services firm’s latest Global Sustainability Perspective says companies can improve their bottom line by showing employees how they can participate in sustainability programs and seeking employee input on enhancing those programs.

Bank of America’s My Environment initiative, for example, has helped build engagement by expanding from an employee-education focus to an action-oriented global community, with members dedicated to helping the bank meet its environmental operations goals. These include a more than 30 percent aggregate reduction in global GHG emissions by 2015 against a 2004 baseline, and a 70 percent diversion of global waste from landfill by 2015.

CA Technologies’ Green Teams drove colleagues in Paris to reduce paper consumption by 10.5 percent and measured the waste stream in Sydney to raise the percentage of recycling/reuse to between 85 to 90 percent of overall waste, the report says.

The Global Sustainability Perspective report distils the employee engagement process to three phases: raising awareness, building engagement and maintaining commitment. The first involves educating employees on key sustainability issues and linking them to the overall business strategy. UK residential property firm Grainger, for example, hosted a half-day seminar for 10 percent of its employees that discussed the company’s efforts at resilience in the face of potential adverse housing trends. One hundred percent of participants surveyed after the seminar said they would like to stay engaged.

In phase two, companies need to motivate employees to adopt sustainable behavior and let employees know what difference their actions make. Phase three involves scaling up projects and developing long-term sustainability commitments.

A November 2012 Global Sustainability Perspective report said US building owners are scaling back the pace of energy-efficiency upgrades. JLL found 78 percent of building owners plan to perform sustainability improvements over the next two years, compared to 91 percent that said they spent money on upgrades over the past two years.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article said Bank of America has set a goal to divert 50 percent of its global waste from landfill by 2015.  The company’s correct waste diversion goal is 70 percent.


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