KLA Perspectives

How an Employee Climate Training Program Can Boost Engagement and Action

Posted byKim Lundgren on Feb 22, 2022 12:45:00 PM


KLA clients lead the way with innovative, scalable, replicable climate solutions at the local level.
Each month in 2022 we will shine a spotlight on their bright ideas.

San Antonio Employee Climate Training

A key but often overlooked strategy for local climate action plans is a training program for city/town/county employees to raise awareness of climate challenges and solutions among an important audience.

That wasn’t lost on KLA client San Antonio, which included “educate and empower all residents with knowledge to address climate change in the community and at the workplace” as a strategy in their Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. And they’ve already made good on that promise through a robust and ongoing employee training program.

For a city that employs 13,000 people, leading by example can make a big dent.

Your coworkers across local government make decisions every day – in their personal lives and at work – that impact climate action goals. While community and business outreach is still a critical tool, local government operations and staff can be a low-hanging fruit or at least a solid starting point. Partnering with other departments, including human resources, you can easily identify a pool of people you have direct access to and how you can make the training mandatory and/or incentivize participation.

San Antonio proved the training isn’t just a one-way communications vehicle. Sure, the participants learned a ton (84% learned something new about climate change; 72% have applied something they learned at work or home) but the Office of Sustainability gleaned valuable information like which departments might benefit from additional training, which topics merit a deeper dive, and what issues people care most about.

The approach was recently recognized by the American Planning Association – TX Chapter with a Gold award.

Key aspects:

  • The City’s Sustainability Office utilized funding from the American Cities Climate Challenge and partnered with Arup, an international climate planning firm, and the City’s Human Resources department.
  • The training series was offered in 5 short (approx. 10 minutes each) training bursts delivered as online videos with a mandatory quiz at the end. The training covered: Intro to the CAAP; Mitigation, Adaptation and Equity; Greenhouse Gases; Shocks and Stresses; and Resilience.

Who received the training:

  • 50 executives ranging from assistant directors and assistant city managers attended five training sessions (about an hour long): Intro to the CAAP, Impacts to City Operations, Climate Action Across the US, Implementation Scenarios, Reflections and Next Steps.
  • An interdepartmental team of about 50 employees already well-versed in sustainability and working with the Office of Sustainability went through one 2-hour training in addition to the citywide mandatory training. They broke the team up into categories focused on a specific topic (energy conservation policy, fleet policy, etc).
  • 8,000+ employees went through the full program.

Lessons learned:

  • There is work to do within the organization to ensure San Antonio is a national leader, but getting some of the core topics to the top-of-mind was critical.
  • Once core topics were top-of-mind it was easier for employees to understand and support changes to ordinances and policies (e.g. energy conservation, fleet procurement).
  • The quiz results showed people struggled with understanding the difference between climate mitigation vs. adaptation and sources of GHGs.
  • The training content needs to be condensed and less technical, and there should be more frequent, shorter videos.
  • Including a non-scored quiz question re: what matters to them (internal policies, climate hazards, preparing their home for climate disasters, etc) was just as insightful as the content questions. 
  • A bonus has been an uptick in visitors to the San Antonio Dashboard, so this can be an easy way to increase website traffic.

What’s next:

San Antonio will be launching a new series this spring that factors in the recommendations from participants. The 2022 training modules will include:
    • Introduction to the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan
      • Mitigation, Adaptation, Equity
    • Climate Projections for San Antonio
      • Likely scenarios for 2040
    • Overview of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
      • 2019 GHG Inventory and top categories (ie. buildings, transportation, solid waste)
    • Solutions to Building Energy
      • Energy Efficiency (e.g. insulation, thermostat settings, light bulb conversion, CPS rebates)
    • Solutions to Transportation
      • Remote work, Commute Smart SA, Alamo Commutes, EVSA
    • Climate Solutions at Work
      • How positions in HR, Finance, Risk Management, ITSD, etc. can think through their duties with a climate lens
    • Summary of Internal City Initiatives
      • Summary of CoSA policies (e.g. fleet, energy, procurement) and initiatives (e.g. healthy foods)
    • Summary of Community Initiatives
      • List of City investments (e.g. EAPP, HWP Greenway System) and major programs (e.g. FlexSTEP)

Learn more about the SA Climate Ready training program and watch the videos.




Topics: community engagement, local leadership, climate leadership, bright ideas