Sustainable Manufacturing Symposium – Employee Engagement

Posted on 22 Jun 2021 by Tom St John

The Manufacturing Sustainability Symposium 2021 took place on 17th June and had a host of expert speakers giving their insights on this major talking point within the industry. In a recapping of the virtual event, we will be bringing you some of our key takeaways to help you and your business on your own sustainable journey.

I sat in on a virtual discussion room that included insights in to ‘Employee engagement’ around the issue of sustainability.  This is one of the biggest topics of today, with countries all over the world setting carbon reduction goals for the future, manufacturers are fully aware that they too must play their part.

Sustainable Resource Management Sustainability - Stock

Manufacturing contributed to the worlds carbon emissions during the first industrial revolution – it can now contribute to reversing the problem, during the current industrial revolution. Here are my five key takeaways, from what industry experts had to say about getting their employee’s to engage on the message of sustainability.

Eager and willing to know more

Firstly, the modern-day employee wants to help and be a part of their company’s sustainable journey. Employees will engage; put programmes in place, provide learning tools and set initiatives and incentives because employees want to help their companies on this issue. This is an important, global message that is not just applicable to the workplace – people are generally trying to live their lives in a more sustainable way.

Retain and attract

More of the workforce are looking in to their company’s stance and aspirations on sustainability. Millennials are becoming increasingly eco-conscious and want to work for companies that behave responsibly and sustainably. They expect to see corporate social responsibility (CSR) written into a company’s structure.   

Sustainability _ Shutterstock

If other businesses have clearer and more inspiring sustainability goals then they could be a more attractive prospect for workers. Speakers in this discussion room were eager to point out that their current staff, not necessarily those from a younger age demographic, are also hugely impressed by their business’ drive on sustainability. You will retain old staff and attract new staff if you are a green minded business.


Message must come from the top

Speakers on the day were all agreed that senior leadership teams must drive the engagement on this. Constant messages around sustainability are key. Health, safety and sustainability must be mentioned as part of a constant drumbeat to the point that people see it as a genuine priority, not just a box ticking exercise. As the message gets driven more often from senior management, the more employees will respond.

This will create:

  • A culture where people will start to contribute their solution ideas
  • An environment that ritualises two-way communication and fosters growth, recognition and trust.

Learning tools

Systems of engagement are now more immediate and the use of online learning tools has been accelerated during the pandemic. Learning tools have now involved into modules that engage people in a new way of working.

Arm people with resources and online modules to improve their understanding of this subject and you will start to see people coming up with ideas and solutions. It was agreed by the panel however, that terminology can sometimes be complex. Clear, concise and digestible breakdowns of the main issues are important in this case.

Net Zero - Wind turbines on sunny morning - Shutterstock - Remanufacture sustainable manufacturing - Sustainability


The final takeaway from this event sounds like a very simple one – listen to your people. Our panel were keen to point out that their people are often the best solution providers on this. Furthermore, their solution ideas are often simple ones that senior management may not have noticed. It is your people who spend the most time on places like shop floors and production lines. Once they are educated and informed, they will know what issues to look out for and will be able to suggest solutions.

You can look back on some of the other keynote events including: Waste Elimination, Reduction and Recovery.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock