GREEN: Making Good Choices on Sustainability Initiatives

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Engaging in sustainability doesn’t have to be large, complex or too resource intensive initially. For companies just starting in the process, choose a few key sustainability projects that align with current business and strategic company objectives. Each year build on those successes and focus on other areas. The following are other factors for companies to consider when choosing sustainability initiatives. These considerations can help organizations prioritize and determine which sustainability initiatives to do first.

Impact

Determine which areas in your company are most greatly affected by environmental concerns and where the best economic opportunities lie. You want to choose a project that can make a big impact yet not too resource intensive to start the momentum. For instance, a "turn off lights" campaign can reduce energy bills usually by 15 percent to 20 percent. That is a huge savings with a simple gesture. Reduction of paper is another great initiative with a big impact. The paper industry is the third largest polluter as industries go and the second largest to CO2 emissions. Reduction of paper doesn’t incur expense but can reap a high impact in terms of cost and environmental savings. Here is an article by Inform IT on becoming a paperless office to learn more about paperless practices.

Cost

Ideally it is best to start with initiatives that don’t have a large outlay of cost. Although putting on solar panels is a great visual it often can be too cost prohibitive as an initial project. Consider initiatives that are cost effective such as energy saving or waste reduction measures. It is important to weigh the outlaying costs versus the value it will bring your business or the environment.

Time

Once an initiative has been chosen, determine an appropriate and doable timeframe for the project to be implemented. Also take into consideration the time involved for staff to make the change and implement the initiative. There is a balance of having a doable timeframe but also not too long that it appears no progress is happening. With most initial sustainable initiatives a 3-6 month timeframe is ideal. As organizations progress with initiatives, timeframes can be extended depending on the complexity.

Viable

Pick a few initiatives that are easy and quick to implement to gain momentum in the company and can show success immediately. Here are a few examples:

  1. Consider adding to your waste management a composting option.
  2. Change all disposable products to bioware packaging or non-disposable options.
  3. At 5 p.m. send out an email reminding employees to turn off their computers and equipment.
  4. Engage your staff in a one-day volunteer activity. (A 2011 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey revealed that millennial generation workers who frequently participated in workplace volunteer activities were far more likely to be proud, loyal and satisfied employees compared to those who rarely or never volunteer.)

Engagement

According to a Globe Scan International Survey, 80 percent of employees surveyed said they felt greater motivation and loyalty toward their company due to its sustainability initiatives. Sustainability builds allegiance with staff and workers to it is important to choose initiatives that everyone can be involved. According to Stephen Covey, people who are positively inspired to be proactive and take initiative for something they believe in aren't just 25 percent to 50 percent more effective, they are 5,000 percent-plus more effective.

Another consideration is to be mindful of how much change is required to do an initiative. If the change requires a lot of training or intensive process change, it might be better to wait on that initiative. Ideally choose an initiative that all employees can be involved and engaged that doesn’t require a major shift in culture change. Click here to learn more ideas on employee engagement.

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