Community and Corporate Engagement towards Climate Action Targets

Summarized, from: Building Capacity for BC Communities – webinar series: Collaborating on Climate Action: Moving Forward with Climate Action with Kerri Klein, Caroline Jackson, Darla Simpson – March 4, 2010 hosted by the Province of BC, Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

Engaging community-members and government operation employees is a key step in advancing your community’s integrated sustainability agenda.
People from every part of the community affect greenhouse gas emission levels. Community and corporate engagement is a critical part of a climate change action plan and will enhance the results of climate change strategies.
When engagement is done well, local government staff and community members have a clear understanding of the challenges, and opportunities arising from climate change. Comprehensive engagement strategies will guide individuals and groups in implementing the role they play in reducing emissions.

What is Climate Action Engagement?

Engaging people to take climate action is the process in which the community, local governments and major stakeholders are able to work together to achieve climate action goals.
Many communities have set goals and/or targets to reduce both community-wide and corporate emissions:
Whether the audience is corporate or community-wide the process of engaging citizens and colleagues will look different for each community and local government. However, the result of an engagement strategy is increased attention and capacity to take climate action.

Levels of Engagement

The depth of an engagement strategy will change depending on the timeline, budget and staff capacity. Local governments can choose to involve the community or staff through successively deeper levels of involvement on a spectrum of engagement. This means informing the audience through communication channels, such as an internal or public website or print materials, consulting by asking for feedback, involving people at workshops, or open houses, collaborating on decisions and finally by supporting empowering projects that allow citizens and staff to take the lead on developing and implementing climate change projects themselves.
There are several strategic engagement frameworks to choose from. Here are a few examples:
  1. Vancouver Coastal Health has community engagement framework:
  2. SFU’s Centre for Dialogue
  3. National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation
  4. Social Capital Project
  5. Community Based Social Marketing (CBSM) is described in-depth  in ‘Fostering Sustainable Behaviour’ available in a free digital download.
  6. Pacific Resource Conservation Society & Destination Conservation has developed different models according to specific community needs:
  7. The Natural Step Five-level Framework for strategic sustainable development that can be adapted to engagement goals:

Before You Engage

Most engagement approaches will combine awareness building, collaboration and action. The first step is ensuring you have a clear intention of:
WHY engagement is necessary:  what is the purpose?  What are the outcomes for the initiator of the engagement process?  What are the outcomes for the participants of the engagement process?
WHO do you want to engage?  There are many “publics” that exist.  Get specific about the population that you want to learn more about?  Is it a particular sector, neighbourhood, demographic?
WHAT do you want to engage them on? There are different methods for engagement depending on the intention. Is there a
  •     decision to be made?
  •     question to answered?
  •     problem to address?
  •     opportunity to look at?
  •     relationship to build?
HOW will you engage the public? There are literally thousands of engagement methods out there.  Rather than getting overwhelmed with methods, they key is be clear about the intention, goals, outcomes and principles.  Then, you can find the methods that suite your purpose. Places to look for methods include:
  • The Change Handbook (2nd Ed) The Definitive Resource on Today's Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems by Peggy Holman, Tom Devane and Stephen Cady
  • International Assoc. for Public Participation:

Engaging Employees to reduce Corporate Emissions in Government Operations

Engaging local government staff and demonstrating leadership around taking climate action is an integral part of meeting the goals of the Climate Action Charter. Implementing an employee engagement strategy builds credibility in the public perception of local government.  It is much easier to engage wider community if your organization ‘walks-the-talk’. The process shifts thinking and creates new social norms that  can help rationalize s some of the initial financial costs associated with upgrades, retrofits and climate action programs. As leaders you may be the first to demonstrate the long-term rewards of investing in climate change strategies and actions.
Build Awareness: Senior management can build understanding around climate change issues by defining climate action and making GHG reduction activities a corporate mandate written into policies, decision – making procedures and reporting.  Make addressing the Climate Action Charter a corporate priority. Interdepartmental managers can uncover synergies across departments and provide opportunities to coordinate GHG reduction initiatives related to the Climate Action Charter.
Other awareness-building activities could include informal lunch-and -learn sessions with staff and presentations at departmental staff meetings. Consider bringing in experts such as local energy associations or non-profits or provincial sustainability facilitators to speak at the sessions with council and staff. In these sessions explain the impacts of climate change, the need for mitigation and the benefits of adaptation.
Consider multiple partnerships across local governments and First Nations to share resources and learn from each other.
Take Action: Create actionable items for employees and departments. Actionable items could be based around: a green procurement or ethical purchasing policy, a Green Fleets programcivic building retrofits and infrastructure.
Pilot an initial engagement strategy with one specific sector or department. Continue raising awareness through ongoing communications support: such as corporate newsletters and web reminders, CAO memo to Commissioners and inter-office emails and track your progress.

Engaging your Community to reduce Community-wide Emissions

Engaging community-wide is part of carrying out the local action plan. Timing is important. If your community has created a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and forecast, set an emissions reductions target, and developed a local action plan you are ready to launch an engagement process.
Every community is unique. For this reason, engagement processes are not prescriptive. The following key elements will help you tailor your community engagement process.
Build Awareness: Begin by preparing information for your community to help them understand why the climate is changing. Include descriptions of the challenges and opportunities and the business case.
Explain the community–wide target and invite community-driven descriptions of what reaching the successful target will look like e.g. cleaner air, less traffic outside schools, lower energy bills, enhanced local tourism etc.) Prioritize the themes as a community. This process will establish a common language and clarify shared motivations. It will also help local governments deliver actions requests based on community success targets. Popular tools to help build awareness are:
During the initial awareness raising activities begin to identify key stakeholders who will engage with their own business or community groups to take further action. Strategic partnerships will help build capacity towards meeting the community-wide targets, for example, the school district, local business association, or local environmental organisation. Build on existing relationships and take advantage of any special skill sets existing in the community. Another way to building capacity is to invite summer students to participate and to mentor people in your community. Once the level of awareness and interest in the community is raised; take action.
Information alone is not enough – for awareness to have impact it needs to be matched with other ingredients such as individual meaning, need to develop social links and norms to others that are taking action, it’s important to be inspired to move beyond thought to action.  Kerry Klein
Take Action: Start the action phase of your engagement strategy by describing what you are doing as an organisation then provide actionable items for the community. These actions should be based on the unique items community success targets discussed during the awareness building phase. 

Golden's New Public Transit System. / UBCM.Plan to reach your community outside of the local government office at venues where community groups gather. Although climate change is a serious issue, use a positive upbeat message. Solutions will have better results than fear mongering. It’s OK to have fun!  

There are many options when it comes to outreach methods such as travelling road-show at schools and community events, webinars, community meetings, presentations &, speakers, film nights, distributing a mayor’s message, rural advisory groups, public meetings, design charrettes, open houses, task force, web polls, software to vision land use and, citizen steering committees. Your job will be to choose the right channels for your community to help the community take climate action.

Community Examples



  1. Smart Planning for Communities & The Columbia Basin Trust: Creative Community Engagement webinar
  2. Alberta Urban Municipalities Association - Citizen Engagement toolkit & Social Media resource guide 
  3. Six Steps to a Sustainable Community, Partners for Climate Protection: The Federation of Canadian Municipalities Citizen Participation and Community Engagement guide

   1. Building Capacity for BC Communities – webinar series:

   2. Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement:

   3. BC Healthy Communities:

   4. International Association of Public Participation:

   5. Key Learnings from Destination Conservation:

   6. Citizen Participation and Community Engagement in the Local Action Plan Process: A Guide for Municipalities, FCM, 2002