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Bringing Sustainability to the Workplace - The Role of a Green Team Print E-mail
Ray Berardinelli   
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Bringing Sustainability to the Workplace - The Role of a Green Team"Going green" is being embraced by more and more people every day. People everywhere are recycling at home and are paying more attention to things like gas mileage and saving on fuel costs by insulating their homes more efficiently. It's when people bring this mindset to the workplace that "green teams" are often born.

Just what are green teams and how can they affect positive change in the workplace?

Green teams invariably start with the noblest of intentions. They are generally founded by environmentally conscious employees and grow via grassroots efforts. Green team members generally first tackle easy-to-manage projects like putting paper recycling programs in place and organizing ride sharing programs to and from work.

True sustainability, however, requires more than great intentions to make a long-term difference. Inside an organization, sustainability is where mission meets metrics. As the old business saying goes, "Anything worth doing is worth measuring." To bring long-term positive change to their organization, green teams need to be able to measure the results of their efforts. They must also find and win support for their efforts from at least one member of their organization's top management team, in order to help ensure access to the proper levels of support and resources.

"People, Planet and Profit" is used to succinctly describe the triple bottom lines and the goal of sustainability. An organization's sweet spot is where its financial interests coincide with social and environmental interests. Historically environmentalism has been framed as having to make a choice between saving the planet and higher cost. Sustainability today means not having to choose. Delivering this message to management is one of the most important roles that green team members can fulfill.

The typical business manager is driven by data. When engaging senior management in an attempt to secure more support of sustainability efforts inside the workplace, green team members can be most effective when using data-driven arguments, like these:

  • Sustainable business practices can mitigate risks, and decrease costs. Reducing or eliminating the handling of hazardous materials in a manufacturing operation, for example, can help save expenses and costly employee downtime.

  • Adopting sustainable business practices can increase brand loyalty by attracting customers who want to "buy green", and, can help recruit and retain employees who want to work for an environmentally conscious organization.

  • Organizations can often win a market leadership position, or first mover advantage when adopting sustainable practices, then marketing them in an appropriate way, being careful not to "greenwash", or overstate their environmentally-focused efforts.

When organizations look outside the walls of their enterprise and begin to invest in supporting the natural environment as well as in the human capital of their communities, they can realize the truly restorative aspects that embracing sustainability can bring. And it all can start with the good intentions and focused efforts of the members of a motivated, dedicated green team of employees who want to help their organization deliver even more to its profitable operation, its people, and our planet.

Ray Berardinelli is a principal and founder of Kalpa Consulting in Portland, Oregon, which provides sustainable solutions that deliver financial results to businesses, not-for-profit organizations and municipalities nationwide. Visit for more resources and information about how to bring sustainability to your workplace.

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