Build a Sustainable Business Culture

"Green or sustainable business culture" is an organizational direction that considers the environmental consequences of all aspects of its operations. Building a green culture requires the commitment of senior management and all workers. It is most successful as a team effort.

Building a green business culture positively impacts the economic viability of your organization through the efficient use of raw materials and energy, enhancing the health and safety of workers, tenants and visitors, and building positive customer and community relations.

Here are some tips to help you build or enhance your green culture:

1) Obtain Management Support

Obtaining the support of corporate management is critical — not only because a green culture may require an initial investment of time and money, but also because it may require changes (e.g., new job responsibilities for some staff, or new procedures for employees or tenants). If corporate management is fully behind building a green culture, employees or tenants will likely take the same outlook.

Benefits: Management support will help to assure business goals and results are considered from the very start.

2) Identify a Green Coordinator

Once you have obtained management support and are planning to pursue a new or expanded green program, the next step is to name a green coordinator who will plan and manage the program. The green coordinator should be an enthusiastic person with strong communication and organizational skills. The coordinator should have good rapport with a broad range of employees within different parts of your company (e.g., procurement, maintenance, human resources, health and safety), as well as with any tenants, service providers and the general public.

Benefits: Selecting the right person to lead the building of your green culture will drive financial and organizational success.

3) Form a Green Team

Many companies have found that forming a green team helps to assure a successful program. Together with the green coordinator, this group will plan, implement and manage the effort. Team members can also assist with employee and/or tenant education and program evaluation activities.

The green team should include employees from many parts of the organization, including certain key employees. For example, building maintenance personnel should be involved because of their extensive knowledge of building systems, energy and water usage. Human resources staff can assist with employee policy development and educational activities.

If your firm owns a building with tenants, you may consider inviting your tenants to contribute to the team. Tenants' input can be valuable in many ways - including education and motivation, maximizing building energy efficiency, reducing water consumption and selecting materials for recycling. If you are a tenant, contact your building owner and other tenants about establishing a building-wide green team.

Benefits: A multi-functional green team provides the fresh ideas and perspectives that drive expense-cutting innovations.

4) Implement Your Green Effort

No matter how much work you put into green planning, your success will depend in large part on your ability to motivate your staff, tenants and — in some cases — the public to participate. Before you implement your program, you'll need to spend some time promoting your green plans and educating staff/tenants about green procedures. Once your effort has begun, you'll also need to find ways to reinforce good habits and keep everyone interested in the program.

Here are a few tips to assure a successful implementation: 

  • Select a launch date. Once all the pieces of the program are in place, and you are ready to begin your green efforts, choose a date to officially launch it.
  • Promote your efforts. Send a kick-off memo from management and the green team to employees and tenants announcing the "greening" of your facility and requesting their participation. Make the memo brief and upbeat. Highlight the benefits of green and explain green procedures. Also, consider a launch event to generate enthusiasm and support.
  • Educate staff and tenants. Organize training sessions and/or prepare special communication pieces to ensure everyone understands their role — and ask for feedback on ways to improve the program.

Benefits: Like any successful business effort, green culture building requires good planning and attention to details. How well you implement your program will go a long way toward building enthusiasm, generating new ideas and assuring that financial and time resources are well used.

5) Monitor, Evaluate and Refine

Once your green effort is up and running, you should monitor and evaluate it regularly. Track such things as dollars saved through energy or water reduction strategies and amount of waste diverted by recycling. Publicize your victories. Also, use this information — and feedback from staff and tenants — to evaluate your efforts and make changes as needed.

As your green culture builds and you begin to see the positive results, be sure to also reap the public relations benefits. Environmental stewardship is one of the key benefits of your green efforts and your customers and the community should know what you're doing to benefit the environment. Here are a few PR ideas:

  • Promote your results and green tips through press releases.
  • Invite local officials, customers and neighbors to participate in green education events at your facility.
  • Encourage employees to participate in community green efforts such as wildlife habitat restoration, highway litter removal and flower planting and care in parks.

Benefits: Regularly monitoring and evaluating green results, and making changes as needed, helps to assure continuing top management and employee support that lead to achievement of business goals. Publicizing your successes also builds customer and community good will.

Do it Now:

  • Make the commitment to green your business.
  • Set realistic goals. Start small - buy a few compact florescent bulbs or a case of recycled office paper. Build on your early successes with more ambitious efforts.
  • Build your green organization. Do you have the passion and skills to lead the charge?
  • Involve others. Great green ideas can come from everyone and everywhere.
  • Share your successes and learn from your failures.

Greening Your Bottom Line:

Regardless of business size, establishing a green culture will prove beneficial. Many businesses have proven that profit increases can occur when there is a company-wide, coordinated approach to greening a business culture. Here are a couple of examples from both ends of the size spectrum:

Through their green efforts, a large flooring manufacturer reduced consumption per unit produced by 70 percent and saved the company $3 million in energy, water and waste disposal costs.

Small changes - and an initial investment of only $70 Canadian for a new type of detergent - helped a bed and breakfast inn reduce its energy and water consumption.


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This article provides general information and recommendations that may apply to many different situations. Any recommendations described in this article are not intended to be specific to your unique situation. Consult with your staff and specialists to determine how and whether the information in this article might guide you in developing specific plans or procedures for your operations. This article does not substitute for legal advice, which should come from your own counsel. 

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