Using gamification to foster environmental responsibility in companies

22/11/2023 Article

Julien Hervy

Strategy Consultant and Customer Experience (CX) Specialist

In this article, penned by Julien Hervy, a strategy consultant and customer experience (CX) specialist with a wealth of experience working internationally and a graduate from ESCP Business School in 2014, we delve into the innovative realm of gamification as a powerful tool for engaging employees in environmentally responsible practices within the corporate landscape.

Despite being overwhelmed with emails and a multitude of tasks, employees are keenly aware of the climate crisis and desire to take action, even within their work environments. Over the past six years, I have focused on studying employee experience (EX), and I wanted to take a closer look at how employees can contribute to environmentally responsible practices in their workplaces. An effective method for raising awareness and motivating individuals to take action turns out to be: games.

As some cities, like Marseille in June 2023, proudly announce their nomination for the European “100 Carbon-Neutral Cities By 2030” label, experts consistently emphasise the role businesses must play in decarbonizing the economy. However, these businesses often resist implementing the structural changes necessary to set a positive example for society. Instead, the burden of reducing carbon emissions is unfairly shifted onto citizens, consumers, drivers, and passengers. How can we integrate environmental considerations into companies, given that meaningful behavioural changes are required?

Exploring the potential of gamification in companies

Gamification – the application of elements of game playing to other areas of activity – has proven to be an effective tool for boosting engagement by using motivational techniques similar to those used in the video game industry. To carry out gamification experiences, companies have referred to techniques based on both behavioural psychology and technologies like VR, AR, 3D models, IoT sensors, etc.

Gamification has been used successfully in a range of fields, including education, health and business. However, it is time to push the limits of gamification by applying it to larger, more pressing issues, in particular, corporate environmental responsibility. This approach can have a positive impact on employee experience and contribute to fostering a strong sense of belonging within the company culture.

"Posters, social media and table football in the break room no longer cut it. Employees need to identify with their employer’s values. Gamification allows companies to communicate their values and information in a playful way. This essential step in creating an employer brand helps create a feeling of belonging – a key driver of employee engagement," said Nicolas Atgé, President of Mocli.

An example of promoting awareness of local culture through gamification

In Alsace, France, during the summer months, the Villé Valley Tourist Board offers a treasure hunt to showcase the region, its craftsmen and its terroir in a fun way. This activity – named “Chasse aux Alambics” after the traditional distillation tool – allows the board to engage local stakeholders and tourists, educating them about crafts that are sometimes overlooked due to the region’s mountainous location. This initiative was made possible by Mocli, a tool that allows professionals to set up gamified experiences for their sites and events in a matter of minutes.

Leveraging gamification to support environmentally responsible companies

In a world facing significant environmental challenges, it is critical for companies to adopt sustainable and environmentally responsible practices. Involving employees in this process is often unavoidable and highly recommended. Gamification can play a vital role in raising awareness of carbon footprints and transforming practices by encouraging environmentally responsible behaviours within organisations.

Creating an environmentally responsible corporate culture requires substantial changes in employee behaviour. However, resistance to change can be a major hurdle in any organisational transformation. Gamification can help overcome this resistance by making the change process more enjoyable and engaging.

Similar to engaging customers, companies must consider employees’ perceived value of their time before involving them in gamification experiences. A thorough understanding of their career expectations, organisational dynamics, and digital behaviours will facilitate employee engagement in gamified experiences. After calibrating the game’s elements (technologies, interfaces, scenarios, etc.), environmentally responsible behaviours can begin to take shape. Subsequently, companies should assess reactions and measure results to fine-tune the gamification approach.

For a more concise implementation of gamification in companies and effective results on employee experience, there are five key points to consider:

• Goals: Clearly identify the objectives you want to achieve through gamification and ensure they align with your business or project goals. In our situation, it would be to raise awareness and motivate employees to adopt eco-friendly behaviours on a daily basis.

• Target Audience: Understand the characteristics, preferences, and motivations of your target audience to design gamification that effectively engages them. How could the company engage its different groups of workers, individually and collectively? What touches and motivates them?

• Desired Behaviours: Determine the behaviours or actions you want to encourage through gamification and ensure they align with your desired outcomes. Here eco-friendly behaviors and wish to raise awareness among employees.

• Game Mechanics: Select suitable game mechanics and elements to motivate users, such as challenges, rewards, feedback, and progression systems. Then link them to environmental effects (individual and collective ones)

• Measurement and Feedback: Define how you will measure the effectiveness of gamification and provide feedback mechanisms for users to track their progress and performance. Gamification has a cost. Its impact has to be measured to evaluate the performance and understand the improvement areas to better engage employees in the experience.

Harnessing motivation for tangible impact

Incorporating elements of gameplay into everyday tasks can provide employees with a sense of accomplishment, progress, and enjoyment. By doing so, employees continue to actively contribute to their company’s environmentally responsible initiatives, often without even realising it. As a result, employee satisfaction increases, and organisations can rely on more engaged employees who are deeply connected to their work and the company.

While not everyone may be ready to commit to taking action for the planet, gamification can serve as a valuable tool for raising awareness. Organisations can offer interactive games and challenges to educate employees about environmental issues and encourage them to adopt more eco-friendly behaviours. For instance, friendly competitions between teams can be organised to reduce energy consumption or minimise waste, fostering a positive and gradual change in employee habits.

Using gamification as a training and informational tool allows organisations to address pressing societal challenges while enhancing their brand image. Unlike greenwashing, gamification offers a concrete method for promoting environmental responsibility.

A case study: leveraging gamification to rethink employee commutes

Let’s take the example of a company that wants to encourage its employees to adopt more sustainable forms of transport, such as carpooling or cycling. The company can develop a mobile application based on gamification principles, allowing employees to track their daily trips, earn points, and unlock rewards based on the number of kilometres travelled in an eco-friendly manner. This approach enhances the transportation experience, motivating employees to choose more environmentally friendly alternatives. While initially implemented at the company level, there is hope that this approach can be expanded to convince city officials and citizens at large to embrace eco-friendly habits.

For a positive, gradual change in corporate culture  

Gamification offers tremendous potential for promoting environmental responsibility within the workplace. By making environmentally responsible behaviours more appealing and incorporating elements of gameplay into internal processes, companies can bring about a positive cultural shift.  However, it is important to note that gamification alone cannot address all environmental challenges. It must be used in addition to other strategic initiatives and tangible commitments to sustainability. 

Nevertheless, by harnessing gamification, companies can create engaging, motivating, and sustainable work environments, making it easier to inspire their employees and their customers to adopt environmentally friendly practices.

This article was first published on ESCP Business School's media, The Choice

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