Big corporate initiatives designed to transform workplace cultures are often top-down affairs, this week’s guest has taken a different approach to integrate sustainability across Swiss Re, a global financial services provider. James Hartley, a global HR Leader at Swiss Re, shares with us the nuts and bolts of their CO2NetZero programme, a rallying point for climate activism that has ignited ongoing interest and creativity among employees around the world.
James has maintained the momentum by staying communicative and open to changes as well as by fostering storytelling that resonates on a personal level. The results? Many measurable quantitative and qualitative impacts, large and small, as well as an interactive app that more than 4,000 employees have downloaded to track, learn about and better understand the ways in which environmental healing starts with the kind of individual daily efforts we can all make — if we know how.
- James unpacks Swiss Re’s corporate DNA, which fuels a commitment to sustainability:
- A purpose-led culture whose core mission includes empowering employees to help make the world more resilient.
- Climate change and reaching a net-zero footprint is a central corporate value.
- Does micro-change make an actual difference? Absolutely — when people band together to take individual actions that build community and truly add up through sheer volume.
- Swiss Re’s CO2NetZero programme is iterative — meant to be co-created, fluid and responsive to feedback from across the enterprise.
- Inviting employees at every level of the organisation to participate not just in the execution but the conception of an ESG programme is key. By building cross-functional teams, staging workshops and taking ongoing feedback, leadership secured tremendous buy-in.
- Internal champions play an important role by spreading the word and engaging others.
- Narrative Benefits: Out of Swiss Re’s company-wide commitment to sustainability has come a wealth of anecdotes, both emotional and practical, that connect to the “why.”
- Sharing personal stories opens up emotional connections in even “right-brained” financial services types, reinforcing the overall corporate commitment to climate activism.
- Swiss Re’s sustainability programme is built on trust, not micromanagement. James believes employees feel deputized and motivated to take action independently.
- Bottom Line Stats:
- 130,000 individual acts of climate activism.
- 1,500 tonnes of direct removal through carbon certificates.
- A cumulative direct removal of thousands of tonnes globally.
- James fosters ongoing engagement by cultivating connections, very often through constantly refreshed shared stories and interactive tools on the app.
- The platform is constantly refreshed with new series of challenges, education and information.
- Regional champions are deputized to run with locally relevant ideas.
- Recommended first steps for companies of any size that want to make a concerted commitment to sustainability:
- Start a conversation. Don’t be intimidated by being the need to be something big, shiny and already fully formed.
- Create a space for individuals to bring their ideas and express their creativity through action.
- No matter the size of your organisation, recognize that every single action contributes to a joint movement that drives bigger global change.
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ABOUT SCOTT MCINNES
Learn more about Scott McInnes, your host and the Founder and Director of Inspiring Change, by clicking here.
ABOUT JAMES HARTLEY
A transformational and purpose-led People & Culture Executive, James has extensive global HR experience.
If you’re struggling with communications in this time of new hybrid workplace conditions, click here to explore Workvivo, a collaboration platform that offers seamless digital integration.