Timberland, Patagonia, Intel and GE are showing how US companies can engage workers in their core missions
Corporate social responsibility in the US has traditionally been about philanthropy, with employees encouraged to do volunteering on company time to “give something back” to local communities. But the approach of engaging employees to promote a company’s corporate sustainability strategy is starting to gain ground as US companies see the benefits of tapping into a valuable and under-used resource.
The improvement has been from a low base. Ceres, a non-profit group that promotes sustainability leadership, surveyed 613 of the largest publicly traded US companies on the issue in 2014 and found that only 40% of them (248), involved employees in sustainability issues, up from 30% in 2012. Of these, only 37 companies, or 6%, are systematically embedding sustainability in company-wide employee engagement, including those at the executive level.
“Engaging employees in a corporate sustainability mission is essential for success, but employees are often an under-utilised resource in a company’s development and implementation of sustainability programs and strategies,” notes the report. “It is often employees on the shop floor, loading dock, laboratory or store front who see first-hand the immediate impacts a company’s operations can have on the environment and community — whether it’s trucks idling for...