Q&A with Renny Perdue, EVP
Greening the workplace can seem like a daunting task. At EarthShare we’re in a unique position to listen to our workplace partners as they seek ways to green their business practices, internally and externally. What we’re hearing: as more and more workplaces recognize the importance of investing in sustainability efforts, workplace “Green Teams” are gaining popularity as an efficient, effective way to lead a company’s greening initiatives and promote employee engagement.
Green Teams are groups of employees within companies who meet to discuss and implement practices to make their company more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Because EarthShare has been helping employers support environmental causes through employee involvement for more than 20 years, we were excited to convene our first ever Green Team networking event in Washington D.C. this March to facilitate best practices and build a forum for ongoing learning and discussion.
In attendance was Renny Perdue of EarthShare. We got her take on the inaugural D.C. Metro Green Team Breakfast Roundtable:
Q: Why did EarthShare decide to convene a Green Team networking event?
Renny: When I’m out and about talking to our campaign partners and potential partners, they often ask for help in greening their business. EarthShare has also been getting more calls and inquiries about the subject. We had been thinking about convening green teams, but the catalyst for making it happen was a meeting with ASHA to discuss their hosting an EarthShare workplace giving campaign. During that discussion, Janet McNichol asked if we knew others in the DC area that had LEED certified buildings because she had some questions she wanted to ask them. She also expressed the wish that there was a local network of peers that she could tap into for help on green initiatives.
Well, the light bulb went on and we asked Janet if she would be interested in attending a meeting with other Green Team members from organizations in the DC area. We made a few other calls and there was great interest and enthusiasm.
By the way, ASHA did decide to do an EarthShare workplace giving campaign and they kicked it off during their Environmental Fair at their LEED gold headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.
Q: Why do you think Green Teams are becoming such a popular way to invest in greening initiatives at the workplace?
Renny: For a company to achieve the goals of sustainable business and environmentally-friendly practices takes buy-in from the entire company. One person cannot do it alone. Most Green Teams have people from facilities, employee engagement, marketing, transportation, etc. as well as those who are just interested in the environment and want to be involved. A diverse group of team members are more likely to come up with and be able to implement a variety of programs and practices. Finally, greening also has the potential to save money for any company and increase its efficiency, which is very timely given the economy.
Q: Who participated in the D.C. Green Team Roundtable?
Renny: We had a diverse group with representatives from both non-profit and for-profit organizations. These included Marriott, Washington Gas, Gannett, National Geographic and Holy Cross Hospital. The participants came from every kind of position within their company, including human resources, corporate service facilities, food service management, marketing and communications, and legal and senior management. We also saw representation from domestic and international operations like the U.S. House of Representatives and The World Bank.
Some Green Teams started from the ground up, others from the top down. Some Green Teams are informal, while others have been incorporated fully into the company structure.
Q: How was the roundtable format received by the participants?
Renny: The appeal of a Green Team Roundtable became apparent early on. Busy professionals can gain valuable information quickly by talking to their peers, and they like having a network of other professionals they can tap for additional information when they need it. They recognized that having this network can also help them justify green actions to management and potentially get additional resources to support their efforts.
This was also an opportunity to learn from each others’ successes so people can avoid having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as well as learning from others mistakes. There were a lot of ideas generated. The group was inspired by some of them, and very interested in how others have solved various challenges.
Q: What kind of challenges?
Renny: These include establishing effective communication across various audiences, internal and external, and working with diverse populations. People are also challenged by limited resources for programs and the initial investment in cost-saving measures. There are some regulatory constraints to innovation, too. Participants also said they wrestled with establishing effective metrics and finding resources and contractors.
Q: Did the group come up with solutions?
Renny: Start small. Most Green Team initiatives start with “low-hanging fruit” such as paper recycling, and grow from there. Other common projects include the use of recycled, reusable and compostable materials; promotion of energy efficiency and conservation; and employment policies such as flexible schedules, telecommuting, and public transportation subsidies that can reduce carbon footprints.
Of course, having support from management is vital.
Q: What’s next?
Renny: Our participants decided to continue to share best practices and challenges, and we’ve established a special limited LinkedIn DC Metro Green Team professional group for this purpose.
We’ve agreed to meet on a quarterly basis and combine topical discussions with roundtable information exchanges. The group will also consider “onsite” tours to experience innovations and technologies firsthand. EarthShare is also working with its state affiliate network to convene Green Team meetings in other cities.
We’re hopeful that convening Green Teams has the potential to help the environment and our communities. By facilitating companies learning from each other we can increase the speed at which businesses and individuals understand and adopt green behaviors. As the participants joked, “..this is one place where stealing ideas from each other is a really good thing, and completely acceptable.”
If you’d like to talk to us about getting involved with the EarthShare Green Team Networks, please get in touch. Stay tuned for more news about EarthShare’s Green Team initiatives. Visit our ‘Greening Business’ section for more information and resources.
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