Feeling All Green and Tingly Inside: How to Promote Your Sustainability Initiative Internally

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
How to get your employees to eat, drink, think and sleep green. Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography

Captivating and engaging employees about your internal green initiatives and sustainability programs maybe your most difficult communications challenge to-date.

It’s not enough to have happy, smiling employees. To be successful in greening your organization to become more sustainable financially, culturally, and planet-wise, your staff needs to be truly engaged.

How can you insure the success and sustainability of your internal green campaign?

Personal Sustainability Projects

Companies like Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay, and Wells Fargo have adopted the practice of Personal Sustainability Projects to empower staff members to find sustainable behaviors unique to themselves and work on them each day for the greater good of the organization.

Who’s Your Internal Green Giant?

Big Four auditor, Deloitte, is greening its operations and its consulting, essentially spinning sustainability internally to create a new product offering, Green Sync, for its customers. Their best practices for going green start with finding an internal green champion, and then:

  1. Like Personal Sustainability Projects, employees have to opt-in to green behaviors on their terms
  2. Raise awareness, education and conversation around sustainable practices within the company
  3. Empower staff at the local levels, while the national office provides support
  4. Applaud small, continuous changes, because they make the biggest impact
  5. Be transparent about the progress of your green sustainability program
  6. Collaboration across all internal departments is key

Encourage Environmental Entrepreneurism from Within

Margartet Mead once wrote,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

This maximum is beautifully reflected in a grassroots effort by passionate eBay employees that started in 2007 and has grown to more than 2,400 employees in over 23 countries in the eBay Green Team. The team has been responsible for internal green initiatives from removing styrofoam cups in break rooms, to encouraging corporate to add larger solar arrays in their San Jose, CA headquarters. eBay also prompts its buyers and sellers to join the Green Team, making it easy to expand their reach exponentially through its network.

Seven Corporate Social Responsibility Best Practices

Where the activities above are more about the human relationship in engaging green behaviors, The Green Economy post spells out a more operational approach, including goals, engagement, mapping, system management, lifecycle assessment, reporting and branding. These efforts top the list of the seven best practices when launching an internal sustainability initiative.

Tools for Micro-Eco Actions

The consistent theme in activating green behavior changes is that small is large. People are motivated to do the right thing if it’s easy to do, saves money, and helps the planet, in that order. Keeping it simple is the hardest part of the sustainability challenge.

One new online tool, and Phoenix Green Chamber member, GreenNurture.com, helps companies activate and reward micro-eco actions by its employees by simply amplifying the internal conversation about sustainability. Participants are rewarded for the involvement with points that can be used for discounts on all kinds of products at RecycleBank.com.

What works for you, making you and your organization feel all green and tingly inside?

Author Park Howell is president of Park&Co, a Phoenix-based sustainable ad agency specializing in environmental and cause marketing. He writes his own blog, “Sustainable Storytelling,” that explores green marketing to help companies accelerate wise growth through smarter branding at ParkHowell.com.


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