5 Tips to Build a Positive Environmental Culture in a Company

Any organization which has an ISO 14001:2015 EMS (Environmental Management System) can testify that successfully establishing and maintaining that system can be significantly easier if the organization can develop a culture of environmental awareness and good practice. Traditionally, changing culture in a business can be a long and difficult task so, if this is to be achieved, what tips can be taken on board to make this happen as smoothly and quickly as possible?

Building your culture – how to begin

Changing a company’s culture, like any major task or project, is a gradual process that needs planning and perseverance. The good news is that there are several compelling reasons for your workforce to open themselves to the benefit of ISO 14001:2015 certification, and a culture that fosters good environmental awareness, improvement and continual improvement of the EMS. Let’s look at some things that the top management team can do to help establish and maintain this culture:

1) Make everyone aware of the financial benefits: From money saved by eliminating waste to enabling your organization to compete for contracts that only an ISO 14001:2015 certified organization qualifies for, the financial benefits for the certified organizations can be great. In the article How to ensure your ISO 14001 implementation is profitable we looked at the factors a company can exploit to ensure financial benefit. Your employees must be made aware of the financial benefits that a successful EMS can bring. Every employee wants to be part of an initiative that can help guarantee future growth and job security within an organization that does not have to pay financial penalties.

2) Engage your leaders to drive culture change: In the article How to demonstrate leadership according to ISO 14001:2015, we looked at the role of top management in the 14001:2015 standard. Your leaders should play a prominent role in the promotion of the EMS, and engage with employees in improvement forums or group meetings. With top management as the key to communicating results and initiatives to the workforce, the importance of environmental performance will grow in the workforce’s consciousness. Many organizations reflect the values of its leaders directly, so you should encourage your top management to promote the importance of environmental performance.

3) Promote a culture where training, awareness and competence is key: As obvious as it may seem, the more training and awareness is promoted, the easier a change in culture becomes to establish. Training and increased competence not only improves performance, but also improves employee self-esteem and morale. These are all key elements of changing a company culture over time. You can learn more from the article ISO 14001 Training, competence and awareness: Why are they important for your EMS?

4) Communicate constantly, accurately and clearly: Communication is key to culture change. Sometimes a workforce needs to hear the same message repeatedly before that message becomes “business as usual.” Sometimes, they even need to hear the same information in a different format. Ensure that communication happens constantly. Again, the importance of environmental matters will become ingrained in the daily lives of the workforce, and the tasks they undertake. You can learn more about this in the article How to perform communication related to the EMS. Also, remember to celebrate good performance with your employees and stakeholders. Nothing changes culture so quickly as the celebration of achievement and success.

5) Promote personal responsibility: Whether by means of monthly forums, company communications or even competitions, why not find different ways to promote personal responsibility within your organization? Every employee can make a difference, whether in their use of water and electricity, decisions about which car to buy or how frequently they can cycle or use public transportation. Even ideas within the workplace to reduce waste and increase efficiency can help a business. Consider rewarding employees who promote good practice. Doing so rewards good performance and promotes a culture of personal responsibility within the organization and both elements will filter through to the company’s environmental performance.

Why is a positive environmental culture important?

It is now generally accepted that mankind is consuming some of the earth’s natural resources at an increased rate. That means that, in the next 20-30 years, we will see the first major shortages or end of supply in some or all 50 precious metals, such as indium which is used in the computer or smartphone you are using to read this article. Promoting a culture of environmental awareness and making informed and sustainable decisions within the activities of your EMS is just one part of addressing mankind’s consumption rates, but it is a sensible and achievable start. Every organization can achieve this, and every employee within these organizations can be made aware of their part within that structure. If you start changing your company culture today, your EMS results will see the benefit almost immediately. In the longer term, you will be helping to preserve the planet’s resources for your children.

Use this free online training ISO 14001:2015 Foundations Course to improve your knowledge of the standard in order to influence environmental awareness in your company.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.