blog by Monica Niermann, Head of Certification

On a rare wander through the internet on a quiet Friday afternoon, I came across the Facebook site, Fifty Shades of Green, who “talk dirty about the environment”. It’s a fabulous feed of green curioso mainly pointing at the horrors in the food we eat. Society is made up of all sorts and I live in amazement of how each of us understand and adhere to social norms in a way that keeps things ticking along nicely. I wondered how this all related to employee engagement.

The people who class themselves as ‘green’ come in all shades – the campaigners and activists, celebrity supporters, consultants and CSR types…and the Green Party. We like to separate ourselves from those who are non-green, red perhaps. However, our messages are all the same and are very clear – the environment and society is everyone’s responsibility and sustainability should be ‘business as usual’.

What can we do to bridge such a gap? The knowledge and expertise of employee engagement lies with the greens, and the reds are our key clientele, the audience of our life’s work. Perhaps this is where the implicit understanding of social norms and culture can play a key part.

I often think of this when I am in Germany visiting my in-laws because Germans are serious about the environment and are very serious about sticking to the rules. In a supermarket in Baden Baden I asked, in my pigeon German, “Ist die Tüte kostenlos?” (Is this carrier bag free?), to which I received a curt reply “Nein, natürlich nicht!” (No, of course not!). It’s a stark contrast to the UK where a 5p carrier bag levy is about politics rather than good waste management.

So what about us as a nation? Defra’s own personality survey reveals attitudes to sustainability and shows that 18% of people in the UK are ‘positive greens’, willing and engaged in environmental issues. The same percentage however are honestly disengaged, the indifferent. Defra’s guidance, which underpins the survey, suggests itself that those who are disengaged are most likely to infer ideas from newspapers and more likely to be influenced by the opinions of their peers. Therein lies the effect of our national persona in creating the necessary change at all levels in terms of employee engagement.

I hope that society continues to operate in as many shades of colour as possible. The common thread is that we all want a sustainable prosperous future and a slow resetting of societal norms may help in achieving that.

By ThePlanetMark Thursday, February 19, 2015

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