An Employee Engagement Program Empowering Workers To Reduce Carbon Emissions At Home, Work And In The Community

“Cool Corporate Citizen is extremely well thought through and I highly recommend it to any company that wants to engage employees in a meaningful and powerful way on the issue of climate change. We ran a very successful Global Warming Cafe workshop that attracted 125 employees before we had to close out enrollment. Out of this workshop we formed 15 Low Carbon Diet EcoTeams to help our employees reduce their personal carbon footprint and then transfer this knowledge back to the company. Many of these EcoTeams have taken the program out into their communities.” 

– Sarah Severn, director, Corporate Responsibility Horizons, Nike

Cool Corporate Citizen is a three-part program built around a set of carbon reduction behavior change tools. Simply, the company reduces its carbon footprint (corporate social responsibility), and then empowers employees and community residents to do the same (corporate social engagement).



Our civilization’s central organizing project is to transform our adverse impact on the climate system before we reach an irreversible tipping point. To accomplish this transformation requires a boldness, innovation, and speed unlike anything humanity has ever faced. To succeed in this extraordinary venture demands all hands on deck. The Cool Corporate Citizen program is an opportunity for business to make a major contribution to this planetary transformation. It moves beyond corporate social responsibility—“I minimize the harm that I do” into corporate social engagement—“I maximize the good that I do.” It invites businesses to become social innovators and change leaders in a way that benefits all of their stakeholders and the planet.

The program utilizes a proven methodology developed by Empowerment Institute – the world’s premier consulting and training organization specializing in behavior change and empowerment. At the heart of this methodology is the award-winning Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds.

Our scientists tell us that we must act now to mitigate the most severe effects of climate change; that we have a very small window before we reach an irreversible tipping point after which the planet will become inhospitable for human life. But with national and international legislation not available, and options and new technologies and alternative energy taking decades to go to scale, where can we find a viable pathway to meet this urgent demand for substantive carbon reduction? The answer, surprisingly, is in the residential sector.

The energy we use to power our cars and homes represents half of America’s carbon footprint and between 50 and 90 percent of a community’s carbon emissions. How we live our lives is a major part of both the problem and the solution. Addressing climate change at a household level is the low-hanging fruit because we can make these changes immediately without waiting for major policy initiatives, new technologies or alternative energy sources to scale up. Further, engaging the citizens of a community creates demand for bold policy changes and the green products and services needed to both sustain a climate change movement and build a green economy.

Research shows that there is readiness among individuals to take personal action on the issue of global warming. A Yale University study indicated that 75 percent of Americans recognize that their own behavior can help reduce global warming, and 81 percent believe it is their responsibility to do something about it.

The study also found that an increasing number of Americans are expecting the business sector to play a strong role in tackling this issue. Summarizing the report, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy Director Dan Esty states: “It’s clear that the public is not waiting for the government to take the lead. Americans no longer think it’s entirely the domain of government to solve environmental problems. They also expect companies to step up and address climate change.”


The following three-part process is done in parallel with each part reinforcing the other.

Part 1: Reduce business operations and employee carbon footprint.

  • In not already done, assess business operations carbon footprint and identify energy efficiency cost savings and process improvements. Develop and implement a plan to reduce business operations carbon footprint.
  • If not already done, assess each employee’s direct carbon footprint and identify opportunities for improvement and cost savings. Develop and implement a plan to reduce employee’s carbon footprint.

Part 2: Support employees to reduce their household carbon footprint.

  • Host workshops in-house (“Global Warming Cafés”) to introduce the Low Carbon Diet to employees.
  • At the end of each workshop, invite employees to form household-based EcoTeams – five to eight people who serve as a peer support group for completing the carbon-reduction program. (EcoTeams follow a series of four structured meetings guiding participants through the program’s carefully crafted carbon reduction actions. Households participating in the program reduce their carbon footprint by up to 25%.)
  • Utilize employee household carbon reduction knowledge and motivation to help lead and sustain the business carbon reduction strategy.

Part 3: Help community residents reduce their carbon footprint.

As part of the company’s volunteer program interested employees who have participated in EcoTeams implement the Low Carbon Diet program in their community. Called a Cool Community campaign, its goal is to empower citizens to reduce their carbon footprint using Low Carbon Diet. The following strategy is designed to enable that outcome.

  1. Identify the carbon footprint of the residential sector of the community so individuals can understand their potential impact.
  2. Set a CO2 reduction and citizen participation target so community members have concrete goals to achieve.
  3. Bring together local organizations across all sectors of the community to serve as partners in implementing the campaign. This allows the community to align in common cause while reaping the additional benefit of greater connectivity to address future issues.
  4. Facilitate an empowerment training for partner organizations to teach them the behavior change, community engagement and coaching tools needed to form and support effective EcoTeams. This is followed up with coaching to support their efforts. This builds local capacity and amplifies the potential number of community members reached.


“More than ever, people want to know about companies’ corporate citizenship efforts, and they will form opinions of a company’s brand and reputation based on those efforts. Sophisticated companies will move beyond merely writing checks and doing short-term cause-related promotions to creating deeper social commitments. These activities should be long-term, credible and integrated into companies’ overall business strategy, and they should involve consumers, employees and communities.”
– Cone Corporate Citizenship Study

The Cool Corporate Citizen program provides a substantive opportunity to meet this need. A company can benefit in the following ways.

  1. Attract and retain top talent because the company is recognized as socially engaged on the issue of climate change.
  2. Increase customer loyalty because of company leadership around the issue of climate change.
  3. Increase employee carbon literacy and morale through participation on EcoTeams that can then be harnessed to help drive and sustain the company carbon reduction strategy.
  4. Develop employee leadership skills through participating in the Cool Community Campaign.
  5. Build strong partnerships with local government, community organizations and other businesses.
  6. Strengthen community visibility and goodwill.


Low Carbon Diet:
A 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds

by David Gershon

The core tool of the Cool Community Campaign.


Learn about the social change framework and research underpinning the Low Carbon Diet program in David Gershon’s award-winning book Social Change 2.0: A Blueprint for Reinventing Our World.Chapter 11 of the book is a case study of the Low Carbon Diet behavior change program and Cool Community empowerment model on which the Low Carbon Diet program is based.


“We’ve always believed that we are more successful when we work together with our stakeholders towards common goals. Cool Corporate Citizen is a great opportunity to act on that belief holistically – through our own actions as a business, our employee volunteerism program and our outreach into the local community – all in an effort to raise awareness and change behavior related to greenhouse gas emissions.”
– Mike Dupee, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters