sustainanility employee engagement Are your employees engaged in thinking and acting in a manner that reflects your commitment to sustainability?

The County of Ventura came to Green Impact with a challenge:  what strategy could they use to inspire and empower sustainability employee engagement.  How could they engage employees to support the County’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions?   Our solution, Working & Living Green, included four components:

While there is much buzz these days about engaging employees, I still find the actual execution of such programs more art than science.  Just in time for Earth Day, based on the lessons we learned from Ventura, here are six tips to help you get an engagement program launched or to amp-up your existing program:Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 3.56.03 PM

  1. Create a catchy and creative brand and tagline
  2. Integrate tips for living greener at home as well as work
  3. Have a clear call to action
  4. Make it personal–engage senior management as green champions
  5. Use video to tell your story
  6. Use Web-based tools to empower green champions




1.  Create a Catchy and Creative Brand and Tagline

Take the time to create a unique and catchy brand and tagline for your engagement program.  It is an opportunity to create a look, feel and message that resonates with employees and begins to build brand awareness of the program.

A familiar challenge is how do we inspire busy employees to feel compelled to take a small action that individually might seem like a drop in the bucket?  With 8,000 employees, small actions collectively can make an impact.  Using the tagline “One person.  One action.  Together,” we weaved this message throughout the program in the video, on the Website and on T-shirts.

2.  Integrate Tips for Living Greener at Home as Well as Work

One key strategic decision was to expand the scope of the engagement program to include actions for at work and at home.  “One of the County of Ventura’s top priorities is to engage employees at work to reduce energy and waste, but we are also interested in informing employees how to integrate sustainability into their lives at home and in the community,” explained Alejandra Tellez, Program Administrator for the County.  The Website includes specific actions and supporting information for living greener both at work and at home, with special sections on eating sustainably and engaging your kids.

3.  Have a Clear Call to Action

The County was clear it wanted to focus on reducing carbon emissions and waste, but when it came time to identify which actions employees had control over, it was a bit more challenging to clearly identify the most effective call to action.  As we engaged key stakeholders, analyzed data and reviewed existing programs, three key priorities emerged:

  • To cut vampire energy use;
  • To increase recycling and reduce waste; and
  • To promote use of the County green fleet (with cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles).

How does one get these messages out without sounding like a nag?  We created a lively video that incorporated the three calls to action and developed an action-oriented Website. On the homepage, we have included a rotating “Featured Action” that includes a quick link to more details.

The program is also be supported by an engagement tool designed to spark friendly competition by allowing Departments to see how their engagement level ranks compared to their peers. The tool also allows green teams to easily organize, create customized posters with the program branding and track results.

4.  Make it Personal–Tell Stories and Engage Senior Management as Green Champions

We breathed some life into issues that could be seen as mundane by telling personal success stories on both the Website and in the video.  To add a bit of spice and interest to what might sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher saying “whaa-whaa-whaa,” for the video we engaged senior leaders from a variety of Departments ranging from the Fire Chief to the Sheriff to the County Executive Officer, as well as his son.

Green champions such as the Fire Chief and the Sheriff emerged as we identified success stories;  and we were able to incorporate a touch of humor by engaging the Sheriff to remind everyone to “just unplug it”.  The Website also includes a section called Green Stars that highlights the personal stories of actual employees.

5.  Use Video to Tell your Story

Video is the perfect medium for telling your green story.  Part of our strategy for engaging employees with the County was to inform and engage all new employees.  The initial concept for the video was to have something to show at new employee orientation.  But it also lives on the homepage of the Website and was successfully shown at a Board of Supervisors meeting to kick off the program.

“Producing a video took more work than we realized, but it was worth it.  The value of engaging a range of stakeholders across different departments was priceless and an unexpected benefit of creating the video,” stressed Sue Hughes, County Deputy Executive Officer. “The final product is being used to get the word out across multiple channels:  local television, the Board of Supervisors, new employee orientation and the Website.”

By engaging the County’s most senior management in the video, as well as front-line employees, the video engaged green champions to model green behaviors and initiated the process of creating a recognizable, sustainable brand.

6.  Use Web-based tools to empower green champions

We recently developed a new Web-based tool for the County of Ventura to harnesses the power of grassroots green teams throughout the organization. The engagement tool, which can be customized for other organizations, is designed to spark friendly competition by allowing Departments to see how their engagement level ranks compared to their peers.  It is a peer-to-peer tool, that can be linked to strategic objectives, harnessing the power of green teams while supporting enterprise-wide goals.  Unlike some of the other cloud-based tools available, our tool is integrated directly into the County’s server.

just-unplug-it1-194x300A key challenge the tool was designed to tackle is how do you engage thousands of employees spread out over multiple locations?  It allows teams to easily organize, empowers existing green champions by providing them a tool to make it easy and fun to launch new, customized campaigns and track results.  Here is a sample of what one of the customized posters looks like; they can easily be customized and placed in break rooms and other strategic locations, ideal for businesses with employees who are not all behind computers.

The poster lists the names of all employees who have pledged, helping to support a culture shift.  It has been proven that when we make a public commitment, we are more likely to follow through. In addition, research has shown that the “keeping up with the Jones'” factor helps inspire action.  If I know you are recycling, I am more likely to recycle if we are friends or colleagues.

The tool provides a dashboard that allows you to track at a glance which initiatives have gained traction.


  • New engaging sustainability logo, brand, messaging for website and homepage
  • New video to engage employees
  • New Web site with success stories, recognizes green champions
  • Web-based engagement tool
  • Brought energy to issue to board of supervisors attention
  • Supporting strategic goals with visible, tangible campaigns
  • Save money and resources by reducing energy use and waste
  • Giving green teams new life
  • Empower and recognize green champions
  • Increase action
  • Save money and resources by reducing energy use and waste
  • Increase engagement through friendly competition

Learn More

See these other blog posts for more trends and tips on employee engagement:

1.  Telling Your Sustainability Story

2.  Six Green Campaign Ideas (in time for Earth Day)

3.  Five Tips for Creating a Winning Sustainability Video


Alejandra Tellez, Program Administrator at County of Ventura

“Deborah pulled together an all star team to help us launch our first sustainability Website and employee engagement program, including an award-winning video and Web-based engagement tool. Our video won two Bronze Telly Awards in the employee communications and environmental categories thanks to her creativity, strategic thinking and strong writing and project management skills.”

Catherine Butler, Documentary Writer / Producer / Director at Butlerfilms

Deborah brings a high level of insight, intelligence, and dedication to help each of her clients achieve their sustainability goals. A creative and collaborative producer, Deborah also has a keen eye for the quality details that ensure a project’s success. Working together with Deborah and her highly-skilled team on the Ventura video was a pleasure.

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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