WE Report: Employee Engagement Key to Overcome Green Fatigue
Companies Must Make Sustainability Commitments Real to Unlock Enthusiasm and Counteract Skepticism
SINGAPORE, NEW YORK, LONDON – May 23, 2023 – Today, WE Communications (WE) released its latest Brands in Motion global research report, “Winning the Battle Against Green Fatigue.” The data reveals that even though employees strongly support their companies’ missions to create a more sustainable world, there is skepticism about their employer’s overall impact, leading many to experience “green fatigue” and some to have deeper concerns about the validity and impact of environmental commitments.
Nearly half of employees surveyed said they suspect their employers are involved in some level of greenwashing — defined as the act or practice of making a product, policy or activity seem more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.
“A level of fatigue has set in for many employees, despite well-intentioned efforts by their employers to design and launch impactful corporate sustainability programs,” said Hannah Peters, WE’s global lead for Corporate Reputation & Brand Purpose. “Our research proves it’s time to think differently about the way employers communicate internally about sustainability — most employees are optimistic and realistic, but growing skepticism presents real risks.”
BRIDGE THE CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY GAP
For sustainability investments to reach their full potential, executives need to ensure that all employees understand their role in supporting corporate sustainability aspirations and outcomes. However, WE’s study shows a disconnect between leadership and the broader workforce: Almost two-thirds of employee respondents said they have very little or no involvement in their employer’s environmental sustainability efforts, and only 38% know that their companies have made sustainability commitments.
To address this gap, company communications — both internal and external — on sustainability must be clear and focused and deliver tangible proof points showing progress.
“Effective internal communications can mobilize and inspire employees — arguably a company’s most important audience — by engaging with them to not just stay on the climate-transition journey with their employers but to be active participants and ambassadors,” said Kemi Akindele, director, Corporate Reputation & Brand Purpose WE UK. “Turning every employee into a sustainability champion is the key to creating an engaged, inspired and loyal workforce.”
TO ENGAGE EMPLOYEES, MAKE IT REAL AND MAKE IT SIMPLE
WE’s research identifies the top five strategies for an “Employee Sustainability Engagement Playbook” that engages employees and brings them along a company’s sustainability journey, from the initial declaration of a commitment to ongoing progress updates to celebrating milestone achievements.
These five strategies share common themes, including an emphasis on results that can be seen and felt:
- Get specific and make it real: Employees want concrete proof of how their day-to-day work is changing based on the company’s sustainability efforts.
- Step into the spotlight: Employees say that seeing their employer’s sustainability efforts showcased or praised by accredited organizations, such as Fortune and Dow Jones, is the top factor that improves their opinion of their company’s climate-friendly strategies and activities.
- Don’t fear the deadlines: Committing to a deadline also increases optimism and confidence, with 88% of employees saying that their employers will meet some or all of their time-bound commitments.
- Show that everyone’s job contributes to sustainability: Relevant initiatives should be communicated in ways that help employees understand how their roles relate to the company’s broader sustainability plan.
- Make it personal: Take advantage of new and innovative ways to connect with employees, explore their views on sustainability and understand what matters most to them.
“Sustainability commitments are a clear business imperative, and companies are stepping up to meet the challenge with more fervor than ever,” said Peters. “With the right communications mix, leaders can initiate healthy dialogues with employees around environmental sustainability that show they respect their work, their opinions and their ideas — and make it clear that employees play a critical role in near-term progress and long-term success.”
ABOUT BRANDS IN MOTION
Partnering with YouGov, WE surveyed nearly 2,000 employees across a range of industries and roles in three markets — Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States — to understand their attitudes toward corporate sustainability programs.
“Winning the Battle Against Green Fatigue” is part of WE Communications’ Brands in Motion global research. Now in its seventh year, Brands in Motion has surveyed more than 100,000 consumers and business decision-makers about how perceptions shift over time.
WE is one of the largest independent communications and integrated marketing agencies in the world. We’re all about people — both our clients and employees — and we believe in the power of communications to move audiences to positive action. Female-founded, female-led, and fiercely independent, WE has spent more than three decades helping world-class brands tell technology-led transformation stories that shift perceptions and change behavior.
Our global reach includes offices in 21 cities, partner networks that expand our footprint and client capabilities, and a team of more than 1,500 media and content strategists, creatives and data scientists across our technology, health, and consumer sectors. Our work with global brands like Microsoft, Intel, McDonald’s, and Volvo has been recognized by Cannes Lions, PRovoke SABRE Awards and PRWeek Awards, just to name a few.
For more information, press only: Kara Kraft, WE, (503) 443-7143, [email protected]