Greening your business may be good for the planet but it’s also great for employee morale and teambuilding. One of the surest ways to succeed in making environmentally friendly changes is to engage your employees in every step of the process.
Ideas that come from within the ranks, rather than those created in the corner office, are more likely to be embraced by employees. That means more effective implementation and better results. It may also mean higher morale and a more positive attitude toward the change, even when it means fewer creature comforts for the workforce (e.g., saving energy by lowering the thermostat in the office and asking employees to wear more layers instead).
When it comes to the environmental impact, what may seem like the most minor change in your company’s normal operating procedure could amount to major savings. For example, if your store has exterior landscaping, a rainwater collection system can cut down on water consumption as well as utility bills. If sections of your factory are used only occasionally, installing motion-activated lighting can conserve both energy and cost.
Remember that your employees know the nitty-gritty details of your business, gleaned from hands-on experience with equipment and supplies. Who better to identify potential small changes with no downside for production but plenty of upside for the environment?
So your first step toward getting greener should be motivating employees to come up with suggestions for change. Consider an ongoing companywide contest. Perhaps call a staff meeting to announce the first winning idea and to honor the employee, possibly inspiring others to think even harder about additional ideas.
The next step is to closely track the impact of the change and share that information with employees. Everyone likes to feel like they have made a difference. Finding out in measurable terms how much a company’s green efforts have saved in energy costs or pollution control generates an immeasurable degree of employee pride.
For example, an employee who regularly uses the kitchen for coffee breaks and lunch may suggest getting rid of the polystyrene coffee cups that clog America’s landfills and substitute mugs that display the company’s logo, website, and phone number. The employee could also advise washing the mugs with an environmentally friendly cleaner. Finally, the employee may suggest replacing the coffee itself with fair trade grind from farmers who pledge to control pollution, conserve natural resources and wildlife habitat, and treat workers responsibly. When a key client visits, you might serve coffee and offer the mug as a keepsake, sharing the back story and perhaps even introducing the employee as a valued member of the company.
Consider that these changes can provide in addition to goodwill within the company a windfall in external public relations among media and key clients. Companies that voluntarily take steps to lighten their environmental load are writing their own good news stories. If the results are dramatic enough, they may warrant a press release, possibly featuring the employee who dreamed up the environmentally friendly idea, once again creating a feel-good environment.
There is enormous potential in ramping up your company’s environmental profile, particularly if you involve your employees from start to finish. The obvious winners: the Earth and your business. And not necessarily in that order.
In her 16 years as a public relations professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.