Monday, March 1, 2010

Tips for Forming a "Green Team" at Work

Over the past year I have had the privilege of co-leading the development of a new "green" team at work. Our group is focused on not only educating employees on environmental issues, but more importantly, initiating business activities that benefit the planet AND the bottom line.

With that, I thought I would pass along some tips for helping you form your own green team:

Make the Case for Greening Your Business
Saving the planet is great. Saving the planet AND driving value for your business is even better. Try building your business case and program around the "triple bottom line" of the Corporate Social Responsibility Model: people, planet, profit. Business doesn't have to operate in "value silos". Score bonus points if you can tie "green" or sustainable efforts to your business model, strategy, or value proposition in some way.

Create a Solid Plan
If you cannot demonstrate a clear action plan for achieving that triple bottom line your efforts will fall flat. Our annual plan is primarily comprised of two parts: Business Initiatives and Community Initiatives. The former allows us to identify and execute opportunities that drive business value (e.g., reduce electricity or paper usage); the latter enables us to connect with local non-profits with an environmental focus and help their efforts through volunteering.

Find a Champion
Otherwise known as getting buy-in from the top. Find someone senior in your organization who shares similar values to "sponsor" your efforts. This person can help forward your mission through public (and visible) support and the removal of organizational obstacles that might get in your way.

Measure, Analyze, Improve
Having solid numbers to drive the creation and ongoing execution of your action plan is invaluable. Take baseline measurements such as electricity usage, waste volume, and recycling rates to know where you are starting from. Then as you take steps to improve your performance, you can measure your impact. Regular measurement of your efforts can also help you identify ways to enhance your action plan along the way.

Benchmark and Network
More and more companies are embracing ways to make their business more sustainable. Learn from them what works and what doesn't. B Corporation, Climate Counts, and GreenBiz are excellent sites to start this process. If you find a few companies close to you, consider creating an ongoing discussion series to improve networking.

Be Inclusive
The more people in your company you can connect with who share the same values and enthusiasm for sustainable business, the better your chance of success. Consider creating a grassroots network of "green ambassadors" throughout your company to help spread the message, execute your action plan, and generate new ideas. Need leader buy-in on activities? Consider the formation of a "green council" to help steer efforts.

Be Patient
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your new and improved sustainable business. Don't take on too much too soon. Remember, you want to demonstrate the viability and value of your action plan. Early on, focus on the "low hanging fruit" -- those opportunities such as reducing waste and energy usage -- to score some early "wins". From there, you can focus on bigger, more complex things like greening your supply chain or manufacturing processes. Good luck!

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