How to Engage Your Employees in Sustainability

Sustainability is a boon for both your customers and your bottom line. However, a business can’t practice sustainability without its employees also buying into the philosophy.

Getting employees to engage in sustainable practices is the fight every restaurant owner must win if they want to promote sustainability. It’s not enough to have energy-efficient lighting or stick to a strict startup/shut down schedule to reduce the energy demand in your kitchen.

So how can you get your employees to be as excited about sustainability as you are? Try these few simple tips.

Define Your Company’s Long-Term Sustainability Goals

In an article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, writes: “The first way to erase the conflict that people can feel between their work duties and their personal values is to stress the long-term interests of the company, which are undoubtedly more aligned with the good of society and the planet.”

There is a lot of literature around the popular culture that denigrates the goals of business owners as self-serving or solely focused on maximizing profits at the expense of people. However, this narrow definition does not encapsulate the goals of the vast majority of business owners.

If you see your business serving a larger purpose in your community, make that clear to your employees. Remind them that you started the business to serve a greater purpose, not just to make money. Doing so will go a long way toward getting them to engage in sustainability practices that benefit your business and community.

Encourage Healthy Competition among Employees

A little fun never hurt. Especially when you’re trying to get your employees to promote sustainability.

Create a prize for reaching a sustainability goal. For example, if you reduce your energy dependency by say 25 percent over a year, offer to take your employees out to a game night at a local arcade.

Another way to promote healthy competition is to recognize individuals who contribute to your company’s overall sustainability goals. If you want to reduce waste in food prep, recognize the cook or chef who goes the extra mile to make sure every piece of food is used.

Lead By Example

As a leader, part of your job is to inspire the people around you to reach new heights that they may not have otherwise reached.

You can talk all the talk you want, but if you’re not walking in the right direction, no employee will listen to you. That’s why the most important way to engage your employees in practicing sustainability is to lead them there.

In turn, by making sustainability a personal responsibility, your employees are more likely to find reasons why they should share in that responsibility as well. That’s because you are painting a picture of what’s possible when a person or team makes sustainability a priority rather than a goal

There are myriad ways of accomplishing this. One of the most effective ways was developed by Jack Welch of General Electric. He believed that a company’s organization should be boundaryless. Anyone who has an idea about how to make the company better should feel free to take that idea to the top of the corporate ladder. This kind of communication helped GE grow into the behemoth that it is today.

What does this mean for your business? If you give your team the motivation and show them the path forward, they are likely to follow you anywhere.

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