Using challenges to educate employees on sustainability with Mark Longstaff from Adobe

Mark Longstaff, from Adobe, joined our Co-Founder, Jo Hand, at our Chief Greenie session to share his tips and insights on using challenges for employee engagement.

Headshot of Mark Longstaff on a light blue background

According to Mark, sustainability has become a core part of many businesses and Mark says, is vital to their success in an ever changing and, often, turbulent market.

“Individuals, you and me, want to be leading in this field. So much so that it’s become a board-level issue for companies. People have a sustainability officer now, and it’s not by choice. It’s a necessity for a thriving company. People won’t want to invest, people won’t want to work with you, or even partner with you unless you have sustainability in your core business programme now. It will cost businesses who don’t in the long run. Everyone is at a phase where they’re wanting and yearning to learn, so let’s accelerate it through challenges.”

It’s this yearning to learn that led Mark to host the Sustainability Games with Giki, a unique and innovative format that would bring together partners and customers in two separate initiatives to take part in an environmental challenge across a month of focused climate action.

During the first partner games, Mark alongside professionals from across 24 of Adobe’s ecosystem, including Accenture, IBM, Infosys, Unilever, Costain, NatWest, Amazon and Microsoft (to name a few!) took part in a month-long unique engagement programme to help them take steps on the environment with Giki Zero.

“I’m competitive myself which is why I love the challenges so much. Competition is fun for everyone. It’s a way of giving people access to all the information Giki puts together and by making it competitive, we all have a drive to win, and bonus – do great things for the planet at the same time!”

This transformation in employee need for sustainability practices in the workplace isn’t unique to Adobe as many businesses are looking for ways to engage and educate colleagues on sustainability and their own carbon footprints. But it’s Mark passion and drive that really shines through for us.

Since he was a young boy, Mark has enjoyed sailing, from everyday open water to championships and competitions. “It’s been a long journey for me. Sailing is a huge passion project and I love getting out on the water. But the physicality of it really struck home for me. I’m out on the waves, and then trying to dodge plastic bags or fishing nets. As a young man I knew something was wrong, and it just takes people to stand up to enact change.”

It’s this drive to protect the environment that threads through to his role at Adobe. As he aims to help the businesses build a digital experience, he’s also removing paper, print, production in turn, helping save the environment through alternative thinking. Mark’s very role helps educate and inspire other businesses to join the environmental movement.

You talk a lot about education and this yearning desire to learn about the climate. How does this thread through to the work you do at Adobe?

Education is everything. I’ve completed a sustainability course with Cambridge University, but not everyone can do this. It’s about helping people discover small, accessible ways to make a change to their lifestyle.

At Adobe, there’s always been a business case for sustainability. We talk about having an electronic signature. By that I mean when you spend just £1 on your digital experience, you save £7 in the long run. It’s a no brainer – being more sustainable saves you money and is great for your business.

Now as well, post pandemic and with our Giki engagement programme, we think a lot about the way we travel. I certainly fly less to Edinburgh for meetings than I did before, and our system is all about working remotely. Adobe have acquired a number of businesses in recent years aiming to do just that. One of our systems is around remote prototyping, instead of sending it all around the world for testing. Not travelling as much is a huge way to cut your footprint.

The Sustainability Games were a huge success for you and the businesses who joined in. What impact did it have on both the team and the planet?

After the success of the partner games, I knew I wanted to do more. We set up a games just for Adobe customers to help them take action on the planet, in the same way we were.

We had 111 members who took an incredible 1959 actions over the course of the month. They completed over 1500 steps and tried a further 400. The impact was huge, over 6 million litres less water used, 200 tonnes of carbon avoided. And the team really enjoyed it. We’ve had several customers come and ask us when we’re going to be running another one!

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to any fellow Chief Greenies looking to run a challenge?

The challenges are fantastic. It’s a way of giving people big or small steps they can take and making them want to win. We’ve also used them to help us on the way to our 17 sustainability goals. We know our team have a higher carbon footprint than the business, over 8 times in fact, so what can we do. Challenges help bring us together and educate the team to make a change. The last challenge we did helped us cut back the carbon equivalent of over 500 short haul flights!

Education solves everything. I’m really upbeat about it and want to encourage people to make a difference. Everywhere I look there’s innovation, let’s educate people and you can learn quicker through challenges.

There’s been so much learning, about not buying so many clothes, turning down the thermostat, how we buy our food and it’s been really fun! And it’s all down to these challenges. Everyone should run a challenge.

Mark Longstaff’s work at Adobe, and throughout the Sustainability Games, has helped educate and empower his team to take action on the climate. Through competitions and challenges as part of the Giki engagement programme, he’s tapped into that human need for innovation. We all want to make a difference and be part of a community doing something great, and it’s through the work with Adobe we get to see incredible things happen.

If you are interested in running a challenge to help your employees be more sustainable at work as part of your Giki programme, contact our team. We’d love to help you get started!