Green Is An Attitude

How do you get everyone in your organization to buy into reducing their collective environmental impact?

Build a consistent, organization-wide attitude that is based on all the right reasons.

The Right Reasons

Values and attitudes direct our behaviour toward any issue. Once you have discovered the underlying values and attitudes that people hold toward the environment, you can align them with your organizational rationale for thinking green. This makes it easier for employees to get on board. Informal discussions, focus groups, or surveys, such as a CORE™ can be tools for uncovering attitudes and values. You will likely hear individual concerns about global warming, air quality, clean water, and healthy food, as well as justifications that green is better for future generations and saves money for the company.

Making a Statement

It is essential that the leaders who seek to create a corporate attitude provide a clear, unequivocal statement regarding environmental impact; a value statement. The CEO and other leaders must express their definitive commitment, perhaps by signing an official copy of the value statement. Present it publically in as many ways as possible, giving it the same importance as other values. Make it clear that everyone falls short at one time or another and that when anyone notices that any leader is not living up to the value, they can bring it to the leader’s attention without fear of recrimination.

Market your value statement using the same strategies you do when marketing your products. Create a slogan. Plan how the message will be offered to everyone, repeatedly, using positive words and tone. Present and publish your rationale for this important value, drawing on those reasons expressed by employees. Cite references from relevant research reports. Every message should touch on one or more of the key reasons people have expressed for acting green. Constantly look for opportunities to communicate the message.

Taking the Lead

Lead by example. The leadership team can find ways to change daily behaviours, complete a project that delivers an initial impact, measure results before and after, create a budget line and allow time for people to take action. Changing daily behaviour such as starting to use refillable drinking cups demonstrate that small changes by many people make a big difference. Taking the initiative to get something done illustrates the kind of actions a group of people can implement. It also shows that the leaders are serious about what they say and are not sitting on their hands. Measuring the impact offers tangible evidence of positive results. Creating a budget and allocating resources proves the organization’s commitment.

Celebrating and Rewarding

Celebrate every success. Speak softly of your own and loudly of everyone else’s. Celebration can be as effortless as a handshake and a “Thank you.” from the boss and CEO. On occasion, it should include public acknowledgement. A range of rewards can be offered from a small symbol like a ‘Green Ribbon’ that people can display, to a special prize for outstanding effort or results.
Reward people who point out shortcomings, especially those of the leadership team. If you, as a leader can publicly declare, “You’re right! I wasn’t doing my best for the environment” without defensiveness, you set the standard for every manger, every employee. It demonstrates that no one is perfect and that you value finding ways to improve. Create a climate where both accepting and giving constructive criticism is rewarded.

Building Attitudes that Work

Attitudes are habits of thinking and acting. They are a product of what people believe and how they act. Leaders have an important role in initiating and developing the reshaping of attitudes in an organization. Stating a value gives it prominence. Explaining the rationale demonstrates respect for others. Stating commitment without reservation shows you really mean it. Taking leadership of the change sets expectations for others and reinforces the message that green is not just a ‘flavour-of-the-month.’ Remaining positive and rewarding effort and results encourages the repetition of the right kind of actions. Freeing people to constructively criticize generates opportunities to improve.

The Bottom Line

Everyone will breathe a little easier, eat and drink a little healthier. Future generations will be healthier, people will be safer. The organization will be richer. Employees will play their part and feel good about it. What more do you want?

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September 1, 2009

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