Whenever we talk about the results organizations receive from our sustainability engagement program – how a simple game-based format inspires adults to make real changes in their lives – sustainability advocates are intrigued, but they are also skeptical: “Sure, Cool Choices inspired measurable changes in that organization, but would it work in ours?”
How do we know our employee engagement sustainability program will work for your organization? At Cool Choices, we’ve seen successful results in law firms and heavy manufacturing, in liberal communities as well as conservative ones. Basically, with the right local commitment, our employee engagement model can work anywhere.
But what about other countries?
Cool Choices Partnered with Singapore – Yes, Singapore!
We recently had a fantastic opportunity to test out our model half-way across the world in Singapore. Through the Sustainable Singapore Movement, the Singapore Government is working hard to engage its citizens in sustainable practices .
Our first task, of course, was to customize the deck of potential sustainable actions so that the actions were appropriate to people on a tech-savvy island nation with great public transit and consistently tropical weather. We worked closely with our partners to identify the practices that they wanted participants to adopt and then to estimate the economic and environmental impacts of each of those practices. We even incorporated the Sustainable Singapore Movement mascots into the platform.
We also spent time talking about our program dynamics: how teams worked, the strategies we use to mitigate cheating, and the power of conversations. Our Singapore colleagues were more familiar with behavioral economics than most of our partners in the U.S., so these were lively discussions!
Singapore’s program, which targeted officers from 12 public agencies, engaged 243 participants. These participants formed 84 teams and reported 9,379 unique sustainable actions as part of the program.
Our program dynamics worked in Singapore much like they work in the U.S. – some participants were very motivated to win, while others had fun sharing photos and learning new strategies for saving money. As in the U.S., participants reported that the program prompted them to do more than they were doing previously. However, unlike most of our U.S. programs, these participants were already doing quite a bit to be green, especially relative to their use of public transit. That meant Singapore’s program celebrated and reinforced those shared practices, while also introducing new ways to save energy and water.
As in our U.S. programs, participants reported substantial increases in the number of conversations they had with family, friends, and colleagues about sustainability. Participants also shared some great photos of their actions, providing real-world proof that “less is more.”
Ultimately our partnership helped the Singapore Government explore the potential for using game-based strategies to engage their population, while giving us an opportunity to verify our model works halfway around the world.
“After analyzing the results, we conclude that the Cool Choices program improved environmental knowledge, helped overcome individuals’ sense of powerlessness, and also changed some behavioural practices, resulting in energy savings,” said a spokesperson from MEWR.
If you would like to learn more about how Cool Choices can customize a program for your specific situation, please contact us.
When someone thinks about Waukesha County, Wisconsin, they may not necessarily think about sustainability or environmental activism. Cool Choices launched a county-wide program in Waukesha County in 2017, and proved that even one of the reddest counties in the country can benefit from increasing sustainability awareness and actions – and have a whole lot of fun doing it, too.
There’s a lot of talk about how we, as Americans, have organized ourselves into communities of people just like ourselves—and the challenge of communicating across bubbles once we’re accustomed to talking only with people who share our worldview.
This is a serious issue for sustainability professionals because if we want to achieve aggressive goals, we need to influence everyone’s actions. Preaching to the choir isn’t sufficient. That said, it’s easy to fall into a bubble, to find yourself surrounded by green enthusiasts where everyone shares a disdain for the people who aren’t hybrid-driving, composting vegetarians.
At Cool Choices we’ve strived to build a program model that engages everyone: people who are interested in saving money from sustainable practices, those who find being sustainable fun, as well as the people who are worried about climate change. Our aim is to engage everyone in actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions—demonstrating both that everyone is part of the solution, and that everyone can benefit from making “cool choices.”
Successfully engaging everyone means we don’t use one-size-fits-all messaging. We talk about different benefits with different audiences, showcasing the specific advantages of sustainability that will resonate locally.
Engaging Around Sustainability in Waukesha County
Our work in Waukesha County is a great example of this. Waukesha County, Wisconsin has been called the reddest county in the country. Waukesha County is a decidedly pro-business place with a healthy suspicion of anything that sounds like government interference in free enterprise. That said, the local businesses do pursue efficiency opportunities that reduce operating costs—there’s just no enthusiasm for mandates about such things. The other important background piece has to do with workforce issues—the county has a low unemployment rate and an aging workforce. Anywhere business leaders gather, there is talk about the challenges of attracting and retaining talent.
Our approach in Waukesha County was grounded in these realities. Recognizing our outsider status, we worked with a local marketing firm to build relationships. Because workforce issues were important, we focused on the workforce benefits associated with engaging employees around sustainability—illustrating how engagement on sustainability could address recruitment, retention, and even profitability. We worked with local thought leaders to create a vision for the program, and then we stayed in the background while those local thought leaders owned the program and lead communications with local businesses.
Our Waukesha County partners included the workforce development board and local offices, along with four chambers of commerce, and the marketing firm that brought us to the table. We also had support from a variety of local environmental groups, but it was the business leaders who really lead the program, recruiting the businesses that ultimately recruited the employees who participated in a Waukesha County Cool Choices sustainability engagement program.
This approach worked. Our partners engaged 30 businesses across the county, ranging from small entities to large regional operations. Then, with templates we provided, those businesses recruited almost 600 participants into the program, of which more than 500 reported claiming at least one “cool choice.” By the end of the program, participants reported more than 31,000 sustainable actions, and submitted almost 1,600 suggestions for ways their companies or communities could further reduce energy, water, and fuel consumption.
What’s even more, is that we engaged a diverse group of participants. As part of the Cool Choices program, we provide a baseline survey, where we include a question that helps us assess levels of participant concern about climate change. In Waukesha County, we saw that while the vast majority of participants felt sustainability was important, concern about climate was more varied. Significantly, we also saw that the people who weren’t especially concerned about climate issues actually reduced their emissions more than those who were concerned! Which means that by broadening our audience, we deepened the sustainable impacts of our program.
Our Waukesha County program also laid a foundation for additional community-scale efforts going forward. As noted above, participants generated almost 1,600 sustainable ideas as part of the program—ideas that provide insights into what participants want to see in their workplaces and across their communities. We’ve already shared those ideas with the business leaders involved in the program, and in 2018, local groups will lead a conversation that integrates those ideas into initiatives that promote sustainable practices, and fit with the particular ethos of Waukesha County. In the meantime, we’re delighted that we could motivate broad action in the county, and help begin the conversation about how sustainability benefits everyone, even in very-red Waukesha County, WI.
Cool Choices is thrilled to announce our partnership with Gerding Edlen to field a tenant engagement program at six Gerding Edlen multi-family buildings in Boston and Chicago.
Gerding Edlen is a national leader in real estate investment, development and asset and property management. Founded in 1996 and headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Gerding Edlen has built or renovated over 75 LEED certified properties. The firm “engages a socially responsible approach to real estate by cultivating properties that strengthen communities, minimize impact on the environment and add profound value to residents and tenants.”
The 2018 program builds upon collaborative efforts in 2016 when Cool Choices implemented a program for tenants at Xavier, a LEED Gold certified Gerding Edlen property in Chicago. Xavier was part of a larger Eco-Concierge pilot program that engaged residents around sustainability while also educating them to specific features of their new homes, including their “smart” electric meters. The Xavier program, led by Seventhwave, was funded by the Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation. As part of the Cool Choices program, residents learned about their smart meters and adopted a variety of sustainable practices consistent with Gerding Edlen’s vision for the property.
Gerding Edlen Corporate Sustainability Program
Gerding Edlen is guided by a set of principles known as Principles of Place. “We create vibrant, sustainable communities where people can live, work, play and learn. For us, building place and building community is equally important,” says Renee Loveland, Director of Sustainability at Gerding Edlen.
Cool Choices will partner with Gerding Edlen to help build on these principles by broadening and deepening tenant engagement around Gerding Edlen properties’ sustainability programs and efforts. “We seek continual improvement of our resident engagement platform and find the Cool Choices sustainability game to be a great complement to our other initiatives – it’s a fun, innovative and practical tool for promoting sustainable living at our properties,” says Loveland.
Our effective, flexible, and scalable solution makes saving energy fun, social and easy, while tracking actions at a granular level. “We were pleased to see the level of engagement Cool Choices achieved at Xavier and look forward to expanding the program to more properties,” notes Loveland.
The Cool Choices approach will deliver for Gerding Edlen:
A customized engagement game that can inspire more sustainable behavior at Gerding Edlen properties.
Immediate behavior-based savings in addition to creating a conduit to other Gerding Edlen property program offerings.
Delight. People have fun playing Cool Choices. In the process, social norms shift, facilitating immediate long-term savings and inspiring participant interest in deeper energy efficiency efforts.
Gerding Edlen is a national leader in sustainable real estate. Partnering with Cool Choices will help Gerding Edlen realize the potential of its properties in a way that demonstrates how the positive actions of tenants can contribute to Gerding Edlen’s efforts to create vibrant, sustainable communities.
In the wake of the US federal government pulling out of the Paris Treaty on Climate Change, cutting the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and reducing national park land, some might wonder what 2018 sustainability trends might look like. However, new entities have emerged to lead the fight to reduce climate change and champion sustainability. We saw more than 2,500 businesses, local governments, colleges and universities, tribal leaders, and faith-based organizations step forward and sign the We Are Still In pledge, committing to tackle climate change, ensure a clean energy future, and uphold the Paris Agreement with or without the help of the federal government. Efforts like We’re Still In demonstrate the power of leadership at all levels.
This trend of public commitments were important in highlighting the broad, bi-partisan support for sustainability. Businesses who are asserting that reducing waste benefits their bottom line while communities commit to a healthier future for citizens is something many can get behind. Here at Cool Choices, we expect the 2018 sustainability trends to shift from pledges to results. 2018 will be a year when these entities share concrete goals and report on the progress made on meeting those goals.
In 2018, we expect increased momentum as more entities track the progress they make on their sustainability commitments. This starts with setting goals that can be measured. Ideally, organizations will adopt science-based targets that align with the goal of the Paris Agreement, which focuses on preventing global temperature from rising more than two degrees. Another good strategy is to develop goals consistent with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which is what Kohler Co. has done.
Working backwards from the goal, what needs to be done? How much carbon, water, and natural resources must be saved in order to meet these targets? How might supply chains need to be modified? These targets might be loftier than what an entity would set on their own, but it’s time for sustainability leaders to start walking the talk.
Transparency is key – sustainability must be visible in 2018. Organizations should be clear about what targets are set, show how they are reaching these targets, the progress being made, and challenges they are facing and overcoming. These achievements should be shared widely. 2018 in the year organizations need to speak up and share how they are hitting their sustainability goals to employees within the organization, clients, customers, and suppliers. Sharing sustainability progress creates motivation and inspiration to continue to keep saving within the organization, to competitors, and peer organizations.
Holistic Approach to Sustainability
Entities must start taking a more holistic approach to sustainability to reach aggressive sustainability goals. This means going beyond facility upgrades and opting for green energy. Sustainability needs to become ingrained in the culture of an entity, integrating sustainability goals into the larger organizational identity. This means sustainability goes beyond the green team. Inpro Corporation is an excellent example. Everyone from high-level management to rank and file employees must understand and embrace sustainability efforts. People within the organization must understand that everyone plays a role in sustainability. This holistic approach to sustainability that will make achieving tough sustainability goals possible in 2018.
How Your Organization Can Reach Its Sustainability Goals in 2018
Cool Choices can help companies and whole communities reach their sustainability goals. Our engagement programs accelerate sustainability efforts by fostering a culture where everyone recognizes the value of sustainable practices, and everyone is empowered to adopt those practices. Cool Choices helps get “an entire employee population moving in the same direction,” according to Morgan Wiswall, the Sustainability Director at Menasha Corporation.
We take a comprehensive approach to emissions reduction. Our program does not just focus on electricity or fleet practices. Our program includes everything from plug load, to travel habits, to suggestions about procurement practices. Everyone has a role to play in meeting sustainability goals, and our program helps people see that.
Cool Choices provides comprehensive program results – which is important for tracking sustainability goals. Cool Choices clients receive real-time access to participation data, plus post-program impact reports that detail financial and environmental benefits. The data identifies trends in sustainable practices, as well as new, rising sustainability leaders within the organization.
Achieving big sustainability results will not be easy – no doubt about it. But entities that engage people and create a culture where everyone understands the vision and is empowered to do their part…those are the entities that will succeed in 2018 and beyond.
If you ask a savvy sustainability manager to calculate the return on investment (ROI) from an efficiency project, they are likely to ask a few follow up questions—because they know that a solid ROI compares all costs to all benefits, and it can take a little digging to get the requisite data.
Calculating the ROI for employee engagement is much the same—you want to be sure you’re including all the benefits.
As noted, a solid ROI calculation compares all costs to all benefit. For a lighting upgrade, you’d have the cost of the new fixtures – including installation time – compared to the energy savings – plus any additional benefits associated with the new lighting. New LED fixtures can last up to 25 years, for example, which greatly reduces ongoing maintenance costs. Additionally, the new lighting might be brighter or better targeted to task areas, which can improve productivity. All of that matters in assessing the total ROI.
Sustainability managers need to be similarly thorough when assessing the ROI of engaging employees around sustainability.
Considering Unperceived ROI Benefits of Employee Engagement
The costs associated with engagement are typically easy to identify, because costs are tied to purchase decisions or the allocation of personnel resources. Benefits, by contrast, can accumulate in unexpected places. An accurate ROI requires that you identify all the ways engaging employees around sustainability contributes to your bottom line.
Direct Resource Savings: If you are inspiring employees to reduce vehicle idling, you will save gasoline, whereas a campaign to turn off computer monitors will save electricity. In either case, one of the benefits is the drop in resource consumption associated with the effort. Too often this is the only benefit sustainability managers count—even though it can be relatively small when compared to the following.
Human Resource Benefits: When you encourage employees to join the company’s efforts to save energy, you increase awareness of those corporate initiatives and give rank and file staff an opportunity to contribute to a bigger purpose. This matters! More than 7 in 10 employees want to help their companies be more environmentally sustainable. Engaging employees in sustainability efforts can increase employee satisfaction with their jobs, facilitate a deeper commitment to the organization, and give folks a sense of purpose—all of which will have a positive impact on employee retention and job performance. Employee turnover is expensive. In fact, experts estimate that replacing a mid-level position costs 20% of the annual salary for that position, with higher percentages for more skilled positions. When you engage employees, inspiring them to be part of the corporate effort, you reduce turnover and you facilitate…
Bottom-Line Benefits from Employee Engagement: Studies show that companies with highly engaged employees have higher productivity, better safety records, and are more profitable than their peers with less employee engagement. That means your engagement efforts have a multiplier effect that far exceeds the immediate savings associated with staff efforts.
Many large companies have existing mechanisms to track overall employee engagement. If that’s the case in your organization, pay attention to those efforts and look for opportunities to showcase how your sustainability efforts are contributing to overall employee engagement. And if your organization isn’t tracking engagement, integrate a metric into your own tracking efforts, so that you can show progress over time. In either case, we encourage you to ask questions like, “How valuable is it when our employees brag to their friends and family about our company’s efforts to reduce waste?” The answers will help you calculate an accurate ROI relative to your employee engagement efforts.
Cool Choices measures both pre- and post-program engagement every time we implement a program, helping our clients to articulate the broader value of their engagement efforts to upper management.
Here at Cool Choices, we stand by the idea that sustainable actions – no matter how small – add up to make a positive, meaningful impact. Since the new year is the perfect opportunity to start practicing new, more positive habits, here is a list of ten small actions you can take to expand upon your sustainability journey in 2018.
Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions
Use reusable bags
By now most people know reusable bags are more sustainable than plastic bags. The tricky part is remembering to bring them along to the store! This is where New Year’s resolution habit-forming comes in: write yourself a reminder to grab your reusable bags and hang it by the door so you’ll see it on your way out. Do you usually drive to pick up groceries? Keep a stash of bags in the trunk. If you usually go shopping on the same day every week, try setting a reminder in your smartphone to remember to bring along your bags. After you remember a few times, you’ll get in the habit of taking your bags with you to the store every time!
Bike, walk, or take public transportation instead of driving
When it’s possible, try one of these environmentally-friendly modes of transportation rather than driving. Not only will you save gas and carbon emissions, but you’ll save gas money and/or get a quick workout in. Plus, you won’t need to worry about finding a parking spot!
Eat more veggie-centric meals
Producing meat and other animal products is more resource-intensive and creates more greenhouse gas emissions than growing fruits, veggies, and grains. To save water and energy resources, commit to trying out one new vegetarian meal every week. There are endless tasty vegetarian recipes to try! To start, eat one vegetarian meal per week. Once you get used to that, try increasing to one more meatless meal each week until you reduce your meat consumption by half – or even more!
Bring your own water bottle or mug
Switching from plastic to reusable water bottles and coffee mugs not only reduces plastic consumption, but it saves the energy required to make all the water bottles you drink from. Not only are reusable water bottles and mugs better for the environment, they come in lots of fun varieties and colors, so you can show off your style while also being more sustainable.
Eat more local foods
Eating locally is sustainable because locally-sourced foods have a lower carbon footprint due to the fact that they don’t need to be transported as far as foods grown across the country – or even across the world! You’ll also help boost your local economy and support farmers in your area. To make eating locally easier, try growing your own vegetable garden, joining a community garden, becoming part of a community supported agriculture (CSA) group or co-op, or shop at your nearest farmers’ market. Eating local also means eating seasonal produce more often, so you’ll get to try new produce as the seasons change.
Time your showers
Shorter showers require less water. By setting a timer during your showers you can limit how long you stay in the shower, saving you water, money, and time! Another easy way to save water in the shower is to switch to a low-flow shower head when your current one needs to be replaced.
Hang laundry to dry
Not only is this habit good for the environment, but you’ll save money too! The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electric clothes dryers account for almost 5% of a household’s annual electricity consumption, so these savings can really add up. In the winter, set up drying racks indoors and in the warmer months harness the power of the sun to line-dry your clothes outside.
Cut food waste
Did you know about one third of food produced gets thrown away each year? Producing food requires land and water resources and lots of energy, making food waste a big drain on environmental resources. You can help by reducing the amount of food you throw away at home – the planet and your wallet will thank you. Reducing food waste starts at the store. Only buy what you know you can eat before it goes bad. Buying smaller amounts in more frequent grocery store trips (make sure to walk, bike, or carpool) can help you judge how much food to buy more easily. At home, freeze food if you won’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. Save veggie scraps to make homemade stock or start an at-home vegetable scrap garden. Utilizing food waste is a fun way to get creative!
Turn off the faucet
The savings from simply turning off the faucet when you’re not using it can add up to make a big difference! From turning off the water while you brush your teeth, wash your hands, or do the dishes, there are plenty of opportunities to save. Just being aware of when you’re running water, and then turning it off when it’s unnecessary, will help you save water and money this year.
Encourage other people’s sustainable habits
When you see someone engaging in a sustainable behavior, say thank you! Encouraging other people to take small sustainable actions helps add to the enthusiasm and support of living sustainably. In fact, when people are rewarded for positive behavior, it’s more likely to stick! So spread the excitement and celebrate small sustainable actions!
Many environmental advocates assume that in order to motivate action on climate mitigation goals, they have to educate the public on why climate change is so important. These advocates seek widespread agreement as a precondition to action. In reality, though, that agreement might not be necessary. In fact, by focusing on climate change instead of sustainability, campaigns may be unintentionally excluding the population with the most potential for reducing emissions.
The Sustainability Lens
Earlier this year, Cool Choices implemented a community-wide sustainability program in partnership with local business leaders in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Waukesha County consistently ranks as one of the most conservative counties in Wisconsin. Our approach to recruiting businesses in Waukesha County to participate in the Cool Choices sustainability program was consistent with our approach elsewhere—we emphasized immediate local benefits, such as increased employee engagement and financial savings for both individuals and organizations that adopt more sustainable practices.
Every sustainability program we implement includes a baseline (pre) and post-program survey. In the Waukesha County surveys, we included a question about climate change in order to better understand our program participants. We asked these individuals to identify whether or not they, “worried that our use of fossil fuels contributes to harmful changes in the climate.” 16% of players disagreed, or strongly disagreed, and 23% were neutral. In comparison, of those same people only 3% disagreed that sustainability was important to them, and 13% were neutral. The vast majority of players agreed that sustainability was important to them, regardless of their concern over human-caused climate change. That means almost a quarter of respondents, 23%, agreed that sustainability was important to them, but that they were neutral or not worried about human-caused climate change.
Bottom line? People value sustainability for a variety of reasons: because they are concerned about climate change, because they like saving money, or because they simply don’t like wasting resources. All of these are valid reasons, and when leveraged can lead to an increase of environmentally sustainable practices.
Cool Choices’ programs inspires participants to change their daily habits in ways that save resources, including energy. While Cool Choices aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we acknowledge that participants might have other motivations. Many of our participants play to save money, or because they like the lifestyle benefits of less screen time and more time outdoors. Our data suggests that the participants who are not motivated by climate change are more likely to be engaging in these behaviors for the first time, making them a prime audience for deep savings.
Broader Audience, More Savings Potential
When Cool Choices’ program participants claim points for an action they’ve taken, we ask them if this was something they were already doing before the program or if it’s a new action. This means we’re able to look at cohorts of participants and see who was already pretty sustainable and who was new to sustainable practices.
When we look at the population of people who agreed that they are worried about human-caused climate change, 27% of their actions were reported as new, or prompted by the program. This compares to the 34% of new actions that participants who reported that they were not worried about human-caused climate change took. This means that the new actions claimed by people who were not concerned about climate change were 80% higher than those who were concerned.
How to Appeal to Wider Audiences
By targeting people who are already concerned about climate change, you may be limiting the audience to people who are already engaging in sustainable practices—you may be “preaching to the choir.” When more inclusive messaging about sustainability is used, it engages a population with a greater potential for savings. Expanding the audience enables an organization to maximize results.
Check out this story by Cool Choices sustainability program alum Kevin, who found a creative way to repurpose waste in his community by recycling old Styrofoam. We are always impressed and inspired by how our program alumni continue to take daily sustainable actions even after the program ends.
What green activities have you been up to since taking part in the Cool Choices program?
“Styrofoam does not decompose and can only be repurposed through recycling. There is an Earth Week at my employer. During Earth Week and around the Christmas timeframe, I set up a collection of #6 non-food grade Styrofoam that is used to when items are purchased by consumers. The Styrofoam is then shipped to a manufacturer called Uniek, Inc., in Waunakee, WI. They recycle this product for making picture frames.”
What Product Can Be Recycled
First it’s important to find out if the item you are getting rid of can be recycled. Try checking out online resources like Recycle Nation, which allow you to search for recycling options by product and location.
Alternative Recycling Options
Some waste is easier to recycle than others. For products that can’t be recycled by your local waste management, there are some other options for disposing items responsibly.
If recycling centers near you don’t accept items you want to recycle, consider checking to see if TerraCycle has a recycling program for that item. TerraCycle is a recycling company that makes it easier to recycle hard-to-recycle products like juice boxes, candy wrappers, and toothpaste tubes – items that can’t be recycled at most traditional recycling facilities. As an added bonus, you earn points by recycling with TerraCycle, which go towards charitable donations to organizations that you choose.
Upcycling can also be another option for some products. With upcycling, waste items are repurposed by finding creative new uses that add value to an existing product that would otherwise be thrown away. Upcycling often involves a little DIY, so it’s a fun way to get creative and be sustainable!
Purchase Sustainably-Produced Items
Don’t forget to opt for recycled and sustainable options when initially buying products. This helps prevent the need for new materials to enter the waste stream. And of course, it’s important to remember that the best way to reduce waste is to not produce it in the first place.
The event – which draws hundreds of attendees from a variety of Wisconsin businesses each year – aims to create a forum where business leaders who are actively working on sustainability issues can share ideas and insights. The event is unique in that all of the conference presenters are people leading sustainability efforts within a company, rather than consultants selling particular approaches. That means there’s plenty of frank talk about lessons learned, enabling the attendees to avoid repeating costly mistakes while accelerating ideas that have a proven record of success.
Making Progress in Sustainability
As the conference’s annual co-host, we had the honor of once again welcoming event attendees to this year’s event – a responsibility we take quite seriously. We wanted to motivate people to engage at the event, and to take insights back to their organizations. Sometimes it’s easy to craft that message. For example, in 2015 the WSBC conference occurred just days after the Paris Treaty on Climate Change, which meant everyone was excited about the potential for international efforts and new opportunities.
In 2017, by contrast, inspiring action seemed like a big challenge, at least at first glance. This year the US federal government pulled out of the Paris Treaty on Climate Change and reversed a variety of social and environmental commitments at both state and federal levels. Commitment to sustainability action seemed to be in jeopardy. In fact, there have been moments when it seemed like there’s bad news everywhere.
But that was just the first glance. If you look more closely at what’s happening right now there’s a lot of good news for sustainability advocates – and a lot of progress too.
Thousands of US leaders across business, local governments, higher education, and faith-based organizations are committing to meet the Paris Treaty standards, with or without the federal government. Efforts like We’re Still In demonstrate the power of leadership at all levels.
Market Shifts Accelerate Sustainability
Then there’s everything that’s happening in the market. Wind and solar electric systems are now comparable in cost to fossil fuels in many locations, a prospect that seemed implausible just a few years ago. Plus electric vehicles and the all-important electric storage options that are gaining market share too, prompting unprecedented reductions in price along the way. Increasingly, the costs of clean energy options just makes good economic sense–smart leaders see no reason to opt for the more expensive, dirtier options.
Additionally, the views of regular people are shifting – the folks who make up your workforce and your customer base. Eight-in-ten millennials want a career where they can contribute to the company’s environmental efforts, MBA students report they are turning down offers from companies that don’t have sustainability goals, and customers – by increasingly large margins – prefer products that are environmentally responsible.
Taking together all of that means this is an exciting time to be involved in sustainability! There’s leadership support, there’s grassroots support, and the technologies are available (at increasingly lower prices) to make change happen.
When we welcomed attendees to this year’s WSBC conference, we told them that it was a terrific time to be working on sustainability. This is our time to shine, to make change happen. Even if you didn’t attend WSBC, we hope you can see past the negative headlines and recognize all of the great opportunities available to sustainability professionals right now. And we hope you are inspired to lead your own organization further than anyone thought feasible a few years ago.
It’s a great time to be involved in sustainability and we’re grateful to collaborate with all of you on this important quest.
It’s ok, we get that a lot – even some our clients admit that they were surprised by how well our employee engagement programs worked to motivate behavior change around sustainability, and to deliver immediate savings results – all while influencing hearts and minds over the longer term.
As people, we tend to think we understand how behavioral change works – the factors that influence our own actions, and the best ways to influence others. But in reality, many people mistakenly presume information changes behaviors; that if people knew what I know, they’d do something different. The research is clear: information isn’t sufficient to influence change, especially across broad populations.
Cool Choices just issued a white paper detailing results of our 2016 programs – an illustration of just how well our programs deliver. We talk, of course, about how the program inspires people to take new sustainable actions – for example: delivering an average of .6 MeT of CO2 emission reductions per participant.
More, though, we look at how Cool Choices’ programs influences how people think about themselves and their peers. For instance, if I think of myself as someone who cares about sustainability, I’m more likely to make sustainable choices. And if I believe my peers – my family, friends, and co-workers – if I believe that those people also care about sustainability, then I’m even more likely to adopt new sustainable practices. When coupled with evidence that an individual’s actions really do add up, this is a great recipe for change, especially when it’s delivered in a fun format!