“Of course, I am OK to help our clients make more sustainable choices, but that is not what they expect of us, and I don’t feel equipped to have this kind of conversation with them.” Sound familiar? This kind of objection should resonate with anyone who has embarked on the transition to net zero.
One thing is clear, given the magnitude of the transformation needed to meet ambitious sustainability targets, there is no way a company can achieve its environmental commitments without a program to engage and upskill the workforce.
Empowering employees to consider the environmental criteria in their daily activities should be a top priority for every company serious about their climate commitments.
Employees play a crucial role in Transition to Net Zero
At Capgemini Invent, we have learned some key lessons while helping global companies implement what we call a Sustainability Academy. This refers to the cultural shaping, training and upskilling transformation linked to an organization’s net zero strategy, and we have defined the following three steps to bring this to life:
Step 1: Awareness — Develop an environmentally conscious corporate mindset through a common path
The first thing all employees need to understand is why it is both important and urgent for their company to act. What are their employer’s ambitions and roadmap regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the impacts of their company’s climate strategy along its value-chain?
We always recommend training on key concepts, vocabulary and regulatory requirements regarding climate change (Paris Agreement, scope 1-2-3; SBTI, European taxonomy…). But that’s not enough. The alignment between the company’s raison d’être/purpose, CSR strategy, net zero ambitions, and business strategy should be crystal clear to federate the workforce around a shared purpose and vision. To do so, we recommend designing a common training path accessible to all employees.
As an example, we designed a three-hour interactive workshop for managers at a leading automotive manufacturer that resulted in a high level of engagement and satisfaction. Typically, we use a card game enabling players to understand the global and intertwined causes and consequences of climate change (The Climate Collage). Another favorite tool is a personalized carbon assessment web app helping users understand the main sources of GHG emissions in their sector / company and how to reduce them.
Step 2: Education — Develop new competencies through a custom path
The second objective of a Sustainability Academy is for all employees to understand what is expected of them and run their day-to-day activities accordingly. The company thus needs to help its people develop or extend the competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) required to reach their net zero ambitions. This step depends on each employee’s individual roles and responsibilities. In helping our clients define detailed competency maps, we have found that, most of the time, competencies are extended and existing roles amended.
For example, client-facing employees in the retail banking industry might have to build their competencies as follows:
- Knowledge: Understand the specificities of a new range of sustainable investments
- Skill: Be able to detect the maturity level of their clients in terms of climate change
- Attitude: Be able to work with a new ecosystem of partners (beyond banking), such as carbon footprint assessment providers, or household and small businesses energy upgrade professionals
On top of that we have also identified new roles in the company, such as lifecycle analysts or circular economy experts.
Once the competency map has been drawn up, a training plan adapted to each profile can be designed using the latest state-of-the-art techniques, including gamification, bite size learning, and micro-doing. In micro-doing initiatives, learners must carry out a set of monitored micro actions in work situations designed to anchor the knowledge they have just acquired. For instance, it might take the form of short challenges among small teams on how to effectively pitch their company’s sustainability ambitions to clients. Some organizations opt for a Green Certification pathway.
Our recommendation for organizations that launch such initiatives is to monitor adoption and engagement through customized, data-driven, user-friendly dashboards. Our belief in a culture of learning has also seen us use a new learning platform in our own business to bring together the best current content/thinking on sustainability and make it really easy and accessible.
Step 3: Anchoring behavioral Change
Lastly, the role of the Sustainability Academy is to trigger and support behavioral change across the company, in coherence with existing systems and tools. It aims to ensure that each employee can say “I am able to be proactive in our climate transition in my day-to-day activity”. Launching a transversal cultural transformation using NUDGES is one option. A nudge is about changing the presentation of choices for people (employees, clients…) so that they are more likely to choose one option over another. For example, reducing the number of car parking slots to nudge employees towards adopting eco-friendly ways of transportation; or, in the case of the retail banking industry, integrating questions in customer advisors’ client conversation scripts that enable them to assess the level of maturity of their corporate clients on climate change, social issues, and sustainable finance.
key success factors and tips on the path to net zero
One point to remember is that climate topics can trigger highly emotional reactions. As such, organizations should approach with care the distinction between professional and personal climate commitments. According to the head of the Learning & Development Campus at a global bank, “Even though we should do our best in terms of persuasion, it is up to the employee to decide what he/she should do at a personal level”.
That doesn’t negate the above three steps, rather it affirms the importance of taking a measured approach to your Sustainability Academy to encourage, rather than enforce, company-wide take-up.
We have further identified the following success factors in building a net zero workforce with a Sustainability Academy:
- Strong sponsorship: The Sustainability Academy must be sponsored and led by the company’s business leaders to ensure enterprise-wide mobilization. We advocate a ”sustainable leadership” model where leaders are trained to lead inclusively and to anticipate the environmental consequences of their decisions. This will enable them to inspire their teams and fully embody the company’s net zero ambitions.
- Set targets & KPIs to accelerate the transition: One of our clients set the ambitious target of “100% client facing employees – 30 000 people – to be trained on environmental issues and be able understand sectorial climate risks by 2023”. To achieve this target, the company totally reshuffled its training roadmap.
- Grasp the complexity of the topic: The climate transition is systemic and affects the organization value-chain as a whole. Organizations and employees should not underestimate the complexity of the topic. A multidisciplinary approach, a growth mindset, and an openness to suggestions for positive change at every level of the company are required.
The path to net zero requires a full enterprise transformation – from redefining business strategies, inventing new business models, adapting processes and adopting new ways of working – in which each employee’s involvement is key. We strongly believe that implementing a Sustainability Academy allows your workforce to be part of this transformation and to contribute to the eventual achievement of your net zero ambition.
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Find out more about Capgemini Invent’s Sustainability Academy approach to engaging and enthusing employees and how our Net Zero Strategy offer can guide your journey.
Director People & Organization, Capgemini Invent
Senior Consultant People & Organization, Capgemini Invent