Employee Engagement

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

We’re all members of the project team

Nicola Gill is Deutsche Bank’s Global Head of Internal Communications. She wants to convince as many employees as possible to go green.

Ms Gill, Deutsche Bank is in the midst of the biggest transformation in its history. Do staff even have climate change on their radar?

Of course the transformation is keeping all employees busy. Very many of them have been with the bank for years, some for decades – the company is in their hearts. That’s why it’s also important to them what role the bank plays in society and that it operates responsibly. As such, every topic that has social relevance immediately becomes an internal issue as well. It’s good that this awareness of climate change has long since grown into active involvement.


What form does this take?

There’s a sense of optimism that’s spreading through every area of the bank. Employees are keen to play their part and urge the bank to do the same. They make suggestions for how to reduce power, water and plastic consumption. They ask why the company finances certain projects. And they share their own experiences. We have an intranet site where users can exchange ideas on this topic. In one post, an employee reported that working from home due to coronavirus has taught her that you can also work efficiently without printing out documents. Stories like this have an impact. One example of the scale of employee involvement is our tree-planting campaign, which we launched in 2010. We set ourselves the goal of planting 150,000 trees in time for our 150th anniversary – and we’ve achieved it.


How does the bank encourage employees to get involved?

Via targeted communication and events. Last year, we staged a staff event with a climate researcher, a philosopher and experts from within the bank. In the discussion session that followed, we were absolutely bombarded with suggestions. One of these led to our campaign to have plastic cups removed from all locations in Germany. The manufacturing and life cycle of plastic is responsible for more than ten per cent of global CO₂ emissions. We’re now reducing plastic consumption by half a million cups and 200,000 lids every year.


Global Head of Internal Communications


Are campaigns of this kind truly sustainable in the sense of resulting in a lasting commitment?

There’s a lot more going on. At a senior managers’ conference, we organised a so-called barcamp on climate change and the ideas presented there are meant to be adopted in the regions and translated into specific actions. And then there’s our #PositiveImpact campaign: we ask staff to post details of how they’re helping the environment using the hashtag #MyGreenImpact. This also triggered impressive responses, and new ideas continue to be posted. In addition, there is a variety of projects in which experts from the bank help fledgling start-ups to develop their climate-neutral ideas. After all, we can also play our part by providing advice.


Do you have a specific target for employee involvement?

In the bank, a lot of work is done on a project basis and by project teams. This won’t work with climate-related matters. The best case scenario here is that every single employee is a member of the team and makes their own contribution. Each individual can turn the tap off more quickly to save water, not leave lights on for so long and do double-sided printing or not print documents at all. And that is exactly the reason why so many people get involved. As a company our behaviour hasn’t always been exemplary. This pains a lot of people in the bank, especially as there was nothing they could do about it. But every single one of us can really make an impact on the climate. And that is precisely our objective: to convince people that fighting climate change doesn’t have to mean going without certain things; it’s something we all benefit from.


What does the topic mean to you personally?

I, too, needed a climate researcher to open my eyes to the topic. I realised that children being born today will no longer be able to play outdoors in the sunshine in the fields without a care – as we were once able to. The danger is clear and present, our way of life and that of our children is at stake. So doing something about it should actually be the most important priority for every single one of us.

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