6 Ways to Help Your Company Achieve Its Net-Zero Goals

January 20, 2022

Contributor: Florence Mann

Communicators have an important role to play.

Following COP26, CEOs are faced with the challenge of transforming their strategic priorities to fit with the global green agenda. In fact, according to Gartner research, about half of executive leaders responsible for guiding sustainability initiatives report that the pandemic has increased momentum for environmental change. The key questions are:

  • How will executives lead companies that can drive net-zero goals? 
  • How will they change the mindset of employees so they can achieve these goals? 

The cultural tensions that arise come with a price. Our research has found that the stress they cause can have a significant impact on employee performance — and come with financial implications. This is where you, as a communicator, come in. 

Watch now: How to Turn Strategy Into Action After COP26

No. 1: Acknowledge the cultural tensions that have arisen

Employees need to realize there are new and tough choices to make. To offer an example, picture employees at a Formula 1 car manufacturing company who won’t just have to think, “How can we make this car go faster?” anymore, but also “How will we meet the demands of the CEO’s green agenda?” In this case — and many others — employees are left to grapple with the chasm between their commercial goals and sustainability. 

No. 2: Help employees build their judgment skills

Once you have acknowledged that cultural tensions exist, the next step is to help employees overcome them. Because the single biggest driver of performance during times of strategic change is judgment, it’s imperative to improve employees’ judgment skills in these seemingly contradictory situations so they know what decision will support the company strategy. If we can do this, we can boost performance and minimize the financial impact of change-related stress. 

No. 3: Identify your naysayers and why they’re not engaging 

One of the biggest barriers to implementing a net-zero strategy is a lack of “belief” in the initiative on the part of employees. Instead of focusing solely on changing attitudes, work to understand other critical drivers of behavior so you can successfully diagnose and resolve barriers to a desired behavior. Only then can you ensure your messaging is targeted and relevant.

No. 4: Provide a safe space for leaders to discuss social impact strategy 

It’s important that leaders have honest discussions in which they can share what they are skeptical about, but also what the benefits of the new strategy may be and what this means for their teams. This will make them more comfortable with cascading the net-zero strategy and contextualizing it for employees. Learn how to lead a dialogue workshop with managers that will help them process upcoming changes and prepare them to discuss those changes with their teams.

No. 5: Help leaders and managers contextualize goals for employees

Goals cannot be achieved if employees do not understand what they need to do differently. Contextualizing the strategy within the scope of company values is crucial for behavior change and success. Some companies go so far as to have their teams assess the degree to which they currently behave in the desired ways and what they need to do differently to achieve the enterprise goals.

No. 6: Identify where your green strategy meets commercial goals

When one company implemented their social impact strategy, the communications team were pivotal in sourcing feedback from executives, employees and investors to identify any perceived gaps. They also highlighted how the prioritized commitments linked to broader organizational goals, tying them to concrete business implications and listing next steps for the business. With this new approach, they achieved compelling progress against social impact priority areas, specifically a 12.9% reduction in emissions from 2019 to 2020.

In short:

  • About half of executive leaders responsible for shaping sustainability initiatives report the pandemic has increased momentum for change.
  • Nonetheless, they often face strategic barriers and employee resistance to meeting their goals.
  • Communicators can effectively facilitate change with this six-step plan.

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