2 November 2021

Is employee activism the answer to delivering your corporate climate promises?

With COP26 hitting the headlines this week, EVERYBODY’s talking climate change. Including your employees.

Now it’s time for businesses to start thinking, how can people’s passion turn ambitious climate change goals into a reality? From the 31st of October to the 12th of November, COP26 will see leaders from around the world gathering in Glasgow to discuss climate change. But despite all the headlines, there’s a distinct lack of belief that it will lead to major change. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, trust in the Government is at an all-time low, and it’s in fact businesses who people are putting their trust in.

While trust in businesses is on the rise, a recent survey by Reuters revealed 83% of employees feel their workplace isn’t doing enough to fight climate change. So why is this? The big goals are there, but employees simply aren’t being taken on the journey to reach them. Here we look at how to bridge that gap through unleashing the power that is employee activism.

So, what does employee activism look like?

Employee activism is about your people having the ability to speak up and take action on a subject they feel passionate about – in this case, climate change. And we don’t just mean having a chit chat with colleagues, we’re talking about having a safe space to voice opinions to management which can bring around real change within the business.

Creating an environment where employees can do this is much more than a quick survey or form to fill out. It’s about developing a strong framework that embraces change and invites two-way communication that empowers your people to use their voice to suggest innovative initiatives as a means for good.

Debunking the fear of activism in the office

Even the words ‘employee activism’ can be enough to strike fear in the hearts of C-Suites – after all, why would you want to put a spotlight on areas of your business that are less than perfect? But it’s important to remember activism comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not all protests and campaigning, there are real golden nuggets that lie in the passion of people. Employee activism done in the right way can unleash ideas and innovations that may have never been considered before.

For businesses who’ve not given employee activism much thought before, now is definitely the time. Online activism increased hugely during the pandemic, and 73% of employees say they expect the opportunity to shape society. So, it’s no surprise that a rise in workplace activism is predicted.

4 Business benefits to bringing employee activism to the workplace  

Need to make the business case? Here are 4 ways creating a framework for employee activism can help businesses achieve their climate change goals:

Employee activism is a way to think outside the box and suggest new ways of doing things. A great example of this is Waitrose’s innovation framework, set up to allow employees to share ideas. One staff member gave a suggestion on how to cut waste, suggesting Waitrose allows customers the choice to opt out of getting a receipt, a simple idea that saved waste whilst cutting costs for Waitrose by an incredible £460,000!

Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)

Embedded in activism, there’s a definite voice for equality. By welcoming the newest recruit’s views alongside seasoned director’s you are putting all individuals on an equal playing field. There are lots of ways to activate this, but by introducing a framework that encourages people to speak in their own words, without fear of ridicule empowers them as individuals, as well as creates a diverse approach that includes all employees.

Attraction & Retention

A recent survey by Reuters revealed that 65% of employees said that they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies, while 40% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to work at an environmentally responsible company. So, people are looking for much more than just a few wishy-washy business values stating commitment to climate change. There is a real demand to be part of the cause to tackling climate change and if businesses aren’t inviting employees on that journey, they may start to look elsewhere.


Setting climate business goals and introducing environmental policies are good in theory, but without the backing of employees it can all just sound like words. In a piece of global research by the McCann Worldgroup insight team, 74% of Gen Z employees said they feel like they have the power to change a brand’s action for the better. It’s on employees to activate and put policies into practice so businesses need to take them on the journey. Quite simply, colleagues are looking for more purpose from their work and inviting personal contribution towards delivering your commitments is a perfect way to harness this.

Ready for action?

Achieving business climate change goals isn’t going to be easy, but trust us the solution doesn’t lie within one-way communication. Behaviour change doesn’t happen through education, so instead of churning out another employee newsletter think about really engaging your employees. Encourage people to be involved, ask for suggestions and give them a chance to feel proud of the business they work for.

We’ve created some great frameworks for all types of businesses to give employees a voice that encourages real change, so do get in touch and arrange a short consultation to help you benchmark where you are and how to get started activating your climate goals.

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