A team of change makers

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

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There is only so much formal education in schools, regular global news updates and environmental campaigners can do to influence the day to day decisions of a person. When most of the time spent by office staff is in a 9-5:30 office environment, 5 days a week, you need an internal team of change markers to help make a difference.

I happen to have the privilege of being one of those change makers at GVA as I was hired to be the corporate responsibility assistant. My role is to influence people in the business to care more about their communities, their individual well-being and the environment. This is done through identifying barriers to behaviour change and coming up with innovative ways to encourage the business to support the change that is needed to overall improve productivity. Here are a few things that I would like to share:

Barriers to behavior change identified

  1. Lack of time – People know the importance of a healthy work environment and want to give back to their communities but they do not make it a priority. Usually an individual will always find time for things that matter such as eating and drinking water. Therefore there is a need to help everyone realise corporate responsibility should be integrated into daily life rather than something you need to book time out in your diary for.
  2. ‘I’ll do it next time’ mentality – People are generally resistant to change so may not dare to ask their managers to take the day off to volunteer, or may not bother separating their food waste from general rubbish. We are creatures of habit so if we do not start today, we will never do it later. If we did make a start, it will only become easier because muscle memory does not just apply to sports.
  3. Lack of incentives – People are competitive and when there doesn’t seem to be a tangible reward, we turn a blind eye. However, the beauty of my role is being able to obtain budget where I can demonstrate a business case for it. This provides room to come up with ideas to incentivise people to make that vital first step to changing.

Recommendations to overcome barriers

  1. Tree-planting– A successful volunteer day where staff from teams across the business can come together to help off-set the carbon emissions of their office by planting trees across the UK and be aware as to why we have the carbon scheme with the Woodland Trust. Conversations can be had in an informal setting about environmental issues and steps that can be taken to protect our planet. Due to positive feedback via word of mouth, more and more staff are keen to try this activity including senior managers and directors.
  2. Smoothie Bike event for Earth Hour – What better way than to engage staff with an interactive activity where they have to pedal a bike to blend their own smoothie. This event tackles the importance of health and well-being as well as raises environmental awareness regarding energy usage. The incentive for people to come along to receive useful information leaflets is the free smoothie they get to enjoy!
  3. Making it a priority – I have been working on a pro-bono, fundraising and volunteering guide for my company which has just been launched. I realized the importance of professionalizing our community and charity service to ensure it becomes part of core business. By having these booklets, it demonstrates to our people that community and charity work is encouraged and a part of GVA culture. This should therefore allow people to feel more comfortable asking their line managers to get involved and at the same time, prompt line managers to encourage their team members to support activities too.

Ultimate lesson for anyone in corporate responsibility

Don't give up on pushing for change because no one else is going to make that change.

For further information please contact Natasha Lee, Corporate Responsibility Assistant on 020 7911 2944 or email

A team of change makers