Using national awareness campaigns to widen your impact

National awareness campaigns and event days are a great way to engage clients with a good cause and can be one of the best ways to engage staff in the sustainable changes you want to make across your organisation. Many events, such as Zero Waste Week and Earth Day, are celebrated across the globe and inspire thousands of people to get involved and take action.

One of the most popular elements of the iiE accreditation process is creating and delivering projects that make a difference, and we often find the more visible and involving a project is, the more likely it will be to build engagement and achieve success.

National (or even international) campaigns, therefore offer an easy way to get started and can count as an excellent project for your organisation. If you are an iiE member, participating in a national campaign can count towards the additional requirement project for your accreditation and present a unique opportunity to effectively engage staff with other aspects of your sustainability work, such as waste management or sustainable travel.

A good campaign should focus on causes or activities that are of interest to your staff (or wider audience, e.g. clients, stakeholders or social media followers), as this is essential to increase engagement and participation. You should also consider campaigns where you can show off the work you have undertaken and highlight the success of your actions, as this can be a great way to demonstrate progress with key objectives such as reducing your environmental impact or increasing your CSR profile. Finally, you should think about the ways you will maximise engagement with the campaign and how you will encourage others to get involved, such as clearly outlining the benefits, offering incentives or prizes, or even creating competition.

They can also help to raise awareness of your brand by highlighting your great work and offering an excellent opportunity to post on social media, engage with hashtags and increase your visibility. campaigns are held throughout the year, focusing on anything from waste and biodiversity to apples and cups of tea. Many have personalised hashtags which are used, and searched, by many different individuals and organisations looking to find out more.

Other benefits of awareness campaigns may include:

  • Increased staff engagement – Participating in a campaign day can be a great way to capture hearts and minds and gain support for a particular cause. If staff are not particularly engaged with some of the sustainability work or actions undertaken within the organisation, hosting a campaign event on a topic close to their hearts can be a great way to increase engagement and may even lead to greater support for any future actions. Feeling part of a campaign or event can also help staff to feel included, and increase morale, productivity, and retention.
  • Reducing your environmental impact – Many campaigns have a particular focus on reducing environmental impact or enhancing biodiversity, such as avoiding waste, encouraging sustainable transport or supporting wildlife. This can help to encourage staff to embed sustainable actions or changes across the organisation, for example launching a new waste management system in line with National Recycle Week or a Cycle to Work scheme as part of National Bike Week. Campaigns can also be a great way to encourage staff to get involved and reduce their impact at home, such as taking part in Plastic Free July, Organic September or Earth Hour, which is particularly important as more organisations adopt hybrid and home working.
  • Supporting local communities or charitable initiatives – Other campaigns may focus on supporting good causes, such as the International Day of Charity, Volunteers Week or Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. This can be a great opportunity to allow staff to have a volunteer day, or raise money for a great cause.
  • Improving staff physical and mental wellbeing – Some campaigns may specifically focus on improving mental or physical health, such as Mental Health Awareness Week, however all campaign activities can have a great impact on employees. Encouraging staff to get out into nature for tree planting or litter picking, or cycling to work will support better physical and mental health. They can also provide an excellent opportunity to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, with important campaigns such as Black History Month, LGBT+ History Month, and National Inclusion Week.
  • Raise awareness of your brand – Campaign days and events can get great public attention, and participating may help to increase the awareness of your organisation and the work you do. Campaigns also offer a great opportunity to post on social media, and using campaign hashtags may increase views and interactivity with posts and accounts.
  • Additional project evidence – For iiE members, participating in a campaign activity can count as an additional project for your accreditation.

Tips to run a successful awareness campaign:

  • Find out what staff are interested in – Talk to staff and see what ideas they have and what they want to take part in. This could be discussed in green group or general meetings, or even every day discussions, and will help to increase participation with the events and activities planned.
  • Research the campaign – Many awareness campaigns have dedicated web pages for each year, and some may even include ways for you to take part as an organisation or induvial, or provide links to local events. There may also be particular themes or trends for the year, which can help to focus your activity and brainstorm ideas.
  • Make it easy to participate – Schedule half an hour in everyone’s diary or suggest simple tasks for staff to undertake. Staff are much more likely to get involved if they have clear instructions on how they can help and what they can do, and have time scheduled in to support the activity.
  • Highlight the benefits of taking part – Make sure participants are aware of why you are taking part in the campaign or activity and highlight the benefits participation and success can have. While you should always highlight the environmental or social benefits, you may also consider other motivation factors such as reducing energy and saving money at home.
  • Gain senior management approval – Support from senior management can really help to increase staff engagement and awareness throughout the organisation, and if required identify if any budget or time resources are available to support the campaign.
  • Make it competitive – Offering rewards and incentives, or adding a competitive element to activities is a great way to encourage staff to get involved. For example, offer a prize for the staff member who walks the most during National Walking Month or incentives for staff who cycle/walk to work on World Car Free Day.
  • Shout about what you are doing externally – Engage your marketing team to share the work you are undertaking with clients and wider stakeholders, and show off your progress. This can help to encourage others to also get involved, show stakeholders and clients your success and build brand awareness.

So how can you get started?

Identify the campaign or activity you want to take part in. This could be a more specific event such as National Vegetarian Week or a broader campaign such as National Green Week or Earth Day, and further inspiration can be found in the updated iiE Campaign Calendar for 2023. If just getting started, you could also run an internal campaign, such as a switch off by placing switch off stickers alongside any lighting or equipment and ensuring staff are comfortable with what should be turned off. When selecting your campaign, consider themes or activities your staff are more likely to engage with and how you will encourage participation. Next, gain senior management support and ensure you have the resources and time allocation needed to make it a success.

Finally, don’t forget to shout about what you are doing on social media, and highlight your progress. If you are a member of iiE, please feel free to tag us to present the activities you are doing as part of your journey to accreditation!