Steve McComb tries to be environmentally conscious. He and his wife recycle, grow their own vegetables, and have a compost heap.
Still, “I did not think of myself as the most eco-friendly person in the world,” said McComb, who is director of product and works out of Signifyd’s Belfast office. An Earth Day contest at Signifyd changed his view of himself – and gave him the tools to do even more to help combat climate change.
It’s an example of the “roll up your sleeves” attitude that’s common among Signifyd employees, said Emily Mikailli, senior vice president of people operations.
A group of employees who are concerned about climate change formed an informal interest group, sharing information on a Slack channel. One of the group’s leaders, Tristan Smith, senior director of technical program management, connected with BetterClimate, a company that offers a platform to help companies and their employees take simple actions to fight climate change. He worked with Mikailli to implement it at Signifyd.
“The main sentiment we see with people that have climate anxiety is this feeling of powerlessness,” Mikailli said. “It seemed like a low-overhead way to give people actionable things they can do in their day-to-day lives to make a difference.”
BetterClimate offers employees personalized action items and recommendations based on a quiz and their location – including international locations. It can facilitate a transition to renewable energy, for example. For Smith, who lives in Bellingham, Washington, it offered nearby options when he clicked on “Eat Locally.”
BetterClimate also offers a Slack channel with tips and encouragement, and it provides a place for employees to log their environment-related volunteer hours.
But getting employees involved beyond those already participating in the climate change group would take more than simply setting up the platform and announcing it. The climate change group, in consultation with the HR department, decided to roll out the program to coincide with Earth Day.
- 115: Employees who participated in the Earth Day contest via BetterClimate
- 1,454: Actions Signifyd employees took toward improving their carbon footprints during the contest
- 216,000: Pounds of carbon emissions reduced in Q2 due to Signifyd employee actions
- 9: Signifyd employees who converted power use to to renewable energy in Q2
“Typically, we do something for Earth Day – last year, we planted a tree for every employee,” Mikailli said.
This year, they decided to launch BetterClimate with a contest in early April and announce the winners on Earth Day.
The group didn’t want people to be discouraged from participating if a glance at the leaderboard made it clear they wouldn’t win. So they used a raffle to award the prizes, with employees getting one raffle entry for each action committed to and completed in BetterClimate.
First prize was an electric bike from Rad Power Bikes. The second and third prize winners received a Stasher bag starter kit.
Rad Power Bikes is a longstanding Signifyd customer – and buying a bike from them was a perfect way to get employees excited about the contest. It was a larger prize than is typical for a corporate contest, and it fit with the Earth Day theme. Their global presence meant they could deliver a bike to any of Signifyd’s employees.
“It’s a win-win if we buy from a customer,” Mikailli said. “And what they provide is definitely a very sustainable form of transportation.”
Inspired by the contest, McComb started using BetterClimate.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see, in going through different sections of the website, that I was doing things already that were good for the environment,” he said.
The contest prompted him to adopt a number of new habits. He started powering off his laptop and monitors when leaving his office and looking at whether products he buys have recyclable packaging. He now buys products such as toilet paper and paper towels that are made from recycled materials, and his family has switched from using plastic straws to bamboo or metal straws.
On Earth Day, he learned that he had won the drawing for the electric bike — a pleasant surprise, as he had not been at the top of the leaderboard during the contest.
McComb had been an avid biker in the past but had stopped biking after being knocked off his bike by a car several years ago.
“It took something special to get me back on a bike and cycling to work again,” McComb said. Trying his first electric bike was the key. “My enjoyment of being on a bicycle came flooding back. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it.”
Winning the bike “transformed my life,” McComb said.
He lives a 45-minute walk from the office, which he had been going to one day per week. On this bike, he can get there in 15 minutes.
“It’s encouraged me to get to the office more – I’m looking for excuses to get out of the house to use the bike,” McComb said.
The bike became such a reliable means of transportation for him that a few months after receiving it, he sold his car, taking his family from two cars to just one.
“I use the bike for transport now. I cycle to the gym. It has definitely improved my quality of life,” McComb said.
The power of small actions
The adoption of BetterClimate and the contest were both driven by employee interests.
“We tend to hire and retain self-starters,” Mikailli said. “The climate change group is a manifestation of that. This is a group of people that realized they had a shared interest, and they banded together to make something out of it and give it value. It’s really emblematic of our culture. The company is then willing to engage with those kinds of interests and those passions.”
BetterClimate remains available to employees, and Smith and the climate change group are considering new promotions to re-energize participation.
“I was glad to have a way that we could get something in front of employees who are interested and encourage them,” Smith said. He wants to prompt employees to take action in ways that they may not think of, and to offer an outlet for employees with climate anxiety. “How can we support people who are stressed about it but don’t know what to do?”
McComb said the site and the contest helped him see the power of many people making small changes.
“It may be quite easy to not do those things because you can dismiss them as being quite small, not moving the needle,” McComb said. “But if we all do it – or we all don’t do it – then that impact is scaled up and it does have an impact.”
Photos by Neil Taylor, Signifyd