Sustainable Green Strategies

A greener organization can mean a smaller ecological footprint, a healthier more productive place to work, and good news for the bottom line.

Whether you’re the boss or the employee, whether your office is already green or still waiting to see the light, some practical steps can lay the groundwork for a healthy, low-impact workspace.

Does a leader have a responsibility to ensure that a company embraces a green and environmentally friendly workplace?

Before answering this question it is important to consider why a leader would want to embrace such an initiative. Like any initiative there has to be a strong need, with measurable benefits to drive the process so that you can do the right thing, as well as take care of your bottom-line.

The AMA (American Manufacturing Association) suggests that some of those drivers are:

Ensuring workers’ health and safety, both inside the working environment and outside.

Increasing workforce productivity.

Improving corporate image with workers and shareholders. How people feel about your organization will determine their willingness to purchase from you.

Addressing effectively any regulatory restrictions.

Enhancing innovation. Good people want to work for companies on the leading edge.

Meeting expectations of investors and lenders.

Attracting and retaining diverse top talent. A green environment can be a key differentiator between you and your competition.

Improving employee morale. When companies are seen to take these initiatives seriously it sends a “we care” message, which is very important for retention of good people.

Addressing challenges of the healthcare system.

Providing goods and services that are good for the world.

The AMA also listed some of the barriers which must be addressed, and I have included my suggestions for overcoming these:

Lack of demand from consumers and customers. Be a leader! Don’t wait until people demand.

Lack of demand from managers and employees. If this is to change you must create a culture where people feel free to express their opinions.

Lack of awareness and understanding, as well as standardized metrics or benchmarks. Empower a team to investigate greening your business.

Lack of specific ideas. Brainstorm and you will be amazed at the ideas others have been thinking about, but that you have never heard.

Lack of demand from shareholders, investors, suppliers and community. Just because it isn’t there now doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

Unclear or weak business case. If you, as the leader, don’t believe it is worthwhile, any business case will be weak. Spend time studying the value and become a champion.

Lack of support from senior leaders. This stems directly from your own personal belief and your business case.

Organizations of all sizes are working to green their processes, products and facilities, and to turn sustainable business practices into a competitive advantage. Leaders can make a choice that providing a greener environment is fiscally responsible. Whatever the decision ask how the outcome is going to have impact a) socially, b) economically, or c) ecologically. Consider the long-term and set sustainable green goals, based on the future benefits versus short-term profit. This requires strong dedication to the goal, and clarity about the long-term benefits.

Leaders can help by empowering staff to own the process of going green. Encourage them to be the conscience of the organization. It is amazing what a team of dedicated, enthusiastic people can achieve. Set organizational goals and ensure that each person aligns their personal goals with them. Some of these personal goals may be met within the workplace, but personal goals may also involve such things as walking, biking, car pooling, taking public transit, or bringing lunch in reusable containers. One soup place where I often eat provides a brown carrier bag with every lunch. It is great to see how often people come to get their lunch carrying the bag from their last visit.

However, all ideas need to go beyond the original three R’s, reduce, reuse, and recycle. The process of the future needs to include re-design and re-imagine. Achieving this may require an investment. Adopting an attitude of abundance rather than an attitude of scarcity; seeing it as an investment, rather than only as a cost, will affect the outcome. This is where a leader helps the collaborative process, continually challenging the team to consider how they and their processes impact the environment.

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September 1, 2009

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