Win the Champion: how we found our Green Team on the first call out

It can happen to us all.

Staff engagement email sent: you’ve agonised over the title and even included a graphic (a David Attenborough GIF, of course).

At this rate, you reckon you’ll get an 80% response rate for volunteering at your community environment day: who wouldn’t reply to you!?

Days later – still crickets from colleagues except one flippant “cool idea” from a desk mate.

The lack of an answer can lead to frustration, slipping timescales, and lost energy.

Yes: we recognise engagement isn’t as simple as – develop idea, make call-for volunteers, form team, do work.

And as an organisation that supports the delivery of social impact and helps people have a say in the decisions that affect them, engaging well is everything.

Not surprisingly, this ‘be great at engagement’ raison d’être underpins how we approach our CR engagement.

And it’s how we got volunteers leading our green team in the first call out.

Most importantly, it’s why we believe that adjusting your approach to environmental engagement to one that’s less top down might mean you see better results to your call-outs.

Here are our 3 tips to help you set up your green team:

1: Change the idea source, change who engages


As an SME and employee-owned business, all staff formally participate in discussions about the direction of the business. Executives ask for input and consider it in strategic planning.

The result? Employees take ownership in how the business is managed and the collaborative culture extends to internal working groups, including the Corporate Responsibility Working Group (CRWG) and green team.

We’re proud of our ownership structure, but there’s good news: you don’t need to be an employee-owned business to achieve this culture.

Let’s consider it with a question: are you reaching out to your colleagues on environmental CR to meet internal targets and create a flashy marketing program; or, are you asking colleagues what matters to them about being green and letting them shape the direction of your organisation’s environmental commitment?

The latter is key as it allows potential champions to connect with being personally responsible for the business’s environmental impact.

With a fresh start, potential champions feel empowered to step-up and share their expertise, rather than over-shadowed by pre-determined goals and activities.

2: Be flexible and open to challenge


If you’re managing your company’s CR work, you’re likely responsible for holding its CR strategy and policies.

So, the idea of letting the green team develop its own route might fill you with unease: what if their goals don’t align with the overall CR strategy? What if they can’t keep up to your timelines, or move too quickly?

While it’s important to have a company-wide CR strategy that can be reliably communicated to internal and external stakeholders, it’s also important to let the strategy live.

What does this mean?

It means that in addition to making way for ideas to surface from every corner of the business, it’s also necessary to let everyone challenge those ideas.

This doesn’t need to be unruly like Parliament’s question time: it’s not about exchanging harsh words.

Instead, it’s about offering formal opportunities for colleagues to thoughtfully critique your strategy: why not prompt your green team to provide feedback on your CR work as it aligns with their green objectives? Or, design a short reflection session after a CR activity ends, letting colleagues share what they might do to address environmental impacts next time.

 3: There’s no shame in shifting direction


You might need to scrap some stuff. You might take three steps forward and then shift to the side.

That’s right, you’ll need to take the ideas and challenges seriously, showing your colleagues you’re considering their feedback.

This might not always be easy. You’ll need to be humble. But it’s all learning. It’s part of the process of improving and getting better – and doing that together.

By letting your champions raise the ideas from the start and being open to your existing ideas being challenged, champions feel a connection to a cause and are more willing to participate.

Good luck making community-sourced engagement your root-ine in environmental sustainability!

 About the Author

Sheila Pardoe is a consultant with OPM Group. She works with diverse communities and stakeholders to improve participation, capacity and outcomes. She is also a chairing member of OPM Group’s Corporate Responsibility Working Group (CRWG).

As an SME with a social purpose, corporate responsibility is embedded in OPM Group’s day-to-day work. Read the article where they talk about why the Corporate Responsibility Working Group reflected on the opportunities of this and why joining Heart of the City is part of re-formalising their CR commitments.

Learn more about how membership with Heart of the City can help your organisation take a strategic approach in developing or further enhancing your responsible business activities, including your environmental initiatives.

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