Green Teams: Ten Best Practices for Engaging Employees in Sustainability
GreenBiz.com and Green Impact have partnered to release a new report, Green Teams: Engaging Employees in Sustainability. Based on interviews with green team leaders from Intel, Yahoo!, eBay and Genentech, as well as a review of the latest literature on employee engagement and green teams, the report provides an overview of the best practices companies are using to support and guide green teams.
It is divided into four key sections: making the business case for green teams; getting started; four emerging trends; and green team best practices.
It is a great resource for companies and organizations just beginning to think about creating a green team and for those ready to take their existing program to the next level.
What is a Green Team?
Green teams are self-organized, grassroots and cross-functional groups of employees who voluntarily come together to educate, inspire and empower employees around sustainability. They identify and implement specific solutions to help their organization operate in a more environmentally sustainable fashion. Most green teams initially focus on greening operations at the office, addressing such issues as recycling in the office, composting food waste, reducing the use of disposable take-out containers and eliminating plastic water bottles.
This focus on operations is evolving and some green teams are beginning to focus their efforts on integrating sustainability into employees’ personal lives, while others are bringing consumers into the equation and aligning their efforts to support broader corporate sustainability objectives.
The Business Case
Because most companies do not track metrics related to green teams, it can be challenging to make the business case for investing resources to support them.
However, based on a review of existing green teams and interviews with experts, the business case includes:
- Cost savings by integrating energy efficiency into the workplace and products and services;
- Attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent who want to work for companies with an authentic green commitment; and
- Increased market share and revenues resulting from a stronger brand and new, innovative green products and services.
Carrie Freeman, a Corporate Sustainability Strategist at Intel, commented, “When it comes to looking at ways to reduce our footprint, we very much see a direct correlation between reducing our costs and engaging our employees.” Be it changing light bulbs, turning off the lights or getting your employees to innovate greener solutions in their jobs, engaging your employees to identify easy, low cost efficiency initiatives can result in significant cost savings.
The National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) recent report The Engaged Organization: Corporate Employee Environmental Education Survey and Case Study Findings stresses, “By engaging employees, companies can spark innovative changes in everyday business processes that save money and reduce environmental and social impacts while also inspiring employees to make sustainable choices at home and in their communities.”
According to a case study by BSR on Intel’s green teams, “It may seem like a distraction in these times of financial instability to focus on employees’ passion for sustainability, but efforts toward employee engagement will strengthen a company’s employee base—which will be a crucial element in recovering from the recession. And maintaining employee loyalty and high productivity will help companies position themselves for success as the economy revives.”
And eBay’s volunteer Green Team leader in Omaha stresses, “Having a Green Team gives people something to believe in; something that is a tangible, visible representation that we are a company that cares.”
The report concludes with a detailed summary of 10 best practices for green teams, with specific examples from leading companies. The best practices detailed include:
- Start with the visible and tangible: focus on internal operations
- Get senior management involved, but don’t lose the grassroots energy
- Engage employees to capture ideas
- Communicate and share best practices
- Engage employees with their bellies: the low carbon diet campaign
- Engage employees in their personal lives
- Engage customers to be part of the solution
- Use art to raise awareness
- Create a toolkit to support and guide green teams
- Align green teams with corporate sustainability goals
Download the report to learn more about these best practices. See the table below for a comprehensive list of available resources on employee engagement and green teams.
Deborah Fleischer is president of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies engage employees, strengthen their relationships with stakeholders, develop profitable green initiatives and communicate their successes and challenges. She is a LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.