How to Engage over 500 Employees in Taking Environmental Action

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Nick Xenos is the Executive Director at the Centre for Greening Government, a centre that was developed to help the federal government reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. 

For Nick and his colleagues, educating and engaging Government of Canada employees is an important part of meeting this greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. That's why he and a team of enthusiastic champions organized a Smart Office Challenge with their branches. The results were incredible - with more than 500 employees taking part!

How did they do it? We asked Nick a few questions about their Smart Office Challenge and how they managed to make it such a big success. Read on to learn more.

Q: Who was responsible for leading/organizing the Smart Office Challenge at your workplace?

A: The team consisted of the following individuals:

  • Nick Xenos, Executive Director, Centre of Greening Government, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Sustainable Development Champion & Event Lead)
     
  • Mike Giles, Director, Corporate Administration, Department of Finance Canada (Event Lead, TBS-FIN Green Network)
     
  • Tyler Tackman, Manager, Facilities Management, Department of Finance Canada (Event Coordinator, TBS-FIN Green Network)
     
  • Jacob Topic, Analyst/ Advisor, Office of the Comptroller General, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Event Developer & Organizer)
     
  • Poya Saffari, Analyst, International, Security and Justice Sector, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (Event Developer & Organizer)
     
  • Pierre-Luc Pilon, Natural Resources Canada (Event Developer, Coder & Web Administrator)
     
  • Sabrina Whelan, Team Leader, Procurement and Materiel Management, Department of Finance Canada (Event Coordinator, TBS-FIN Green Network)

 

Q: Why did you decide to host a Smart Office Challenge with your workplace? 

A: We had activities planned around Canadian Environment Week, and were looking to encourage employees to reduce their carbon footprint. Some of the activities that came up, and discussions with Frances at HP Canada and Amy at WWF-Canada helped evolve our thinking and hence we made it into a friendly competition, to encourage employees to form habits to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways.

Discussions with Frances at HP Canada and Amy at WWF-Canada helped evolve our thinking and hence we made it into a friendly competition, to encourage employees to form habits to reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways.

Q: What types of activities did you run for your Smart Office Challenge?

A: We ran five activities:

  • The paper reduction challenge – where we encouraged employees to print even less than they do and make better use of technology, if they could! We tracked the week before the challenge to develop a baseline, and then tracked the stats at the end of the week, comparing the change. There was quite a reduction!
     
  • Smart commuting challenge – where employees got a different number of points depending how they got into work: Public Transit, Walking, Biking, Taxiing, Driving, Carpooling, or other commuting options. Employees received points depending how ‘green’ their choice of transportation was.
     
  • Waste reduction challenge – where employees got points depending on how much they wasted, encouraging them to use reusable containers for their lunches and snacks, and reusable mugs for their coffee, tea, or water.
     
  • Power down challenge – an idea shared with us by the WWF – where employees got points depending how much they powered down – their laptops, their monitors, other electronic devices, etc.
     
  • Green meeting challenge – where employees got points based on their paper vs. technology use in meetings, their encouraging participants to make use of teleconferencing and videoconference, and how they got to their meetings.

 

Q: Did you face any obstacles or barriers when organizing the challenge? How were you able to overcome those barriers? 

A: Ensuring equity of the points system was a challenge throughout – some branches had more employees than others (some had more than 1000% more employees than others), some had very high participation, and others had very low, so we had to be sure we were fair in our distribution of points, as to not detract from the efforts of any one employee. In the end, we believe we found a fair system to judge the points by aggregating points by branch but adjusting for the size of the branch - one of our smallest branches actually ended up winning!

 

Q: What was your favourite part about organizing an employee engagement campaign like this?

Organizing the challenge allowed the organizing team and I to raise environmental awareness across 2 departments.  It was fantastic to see the creativity from the organizing team, the high level of employee engagement, and the feeling that we were actually able to make a change, no matter how small or large. 

 

Thank you to Nick and his amazing team for organizing such an impactful and creative employee engagement activity with their workplace!

Inspired by this story? You can organize a Smart Office Challenge with your workplace by visiting wwf.ca/smartoffice

For more information, contact Ty Nanayakkara at tnanayakkara@wwfcanada.org

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