Being Green – Getting ‘Buy-In’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this post is ‘Getting Buy-In‘, and since developing a sustainability strategy affects everyone in your home or business and extends out to include suppliers and clients as well, I thought I’d toss out a few ideas on how to implement this.  Keep in mind that even in your home your ‘suppliers’ include the utility companies, grocery store and other stores, and ‘clients’ can include your friends, neighbours and family.  Many of these ideas are supported by great information from others, so I’ll begin by appreciating them! 

In no particular order:

  1. Communication/ Education:  This, to me, is not only the most generic idea, but also the most important.  Communication and education are obviously different, but they must work hand in hand.  From the time we are children, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “Why?”  And no child wants to hear, “Because I said so.”  It may suffice for a frustrated parent, but it doesn’t satisfy the child.  As we grow up and move into the workplace the same ideas apply, and nobody is ever satisfied with an answer of, “Because I’m your boss.'” If one is building a green building for example, everyone from the architect to the site manager to the labourers on site need to be aware of the specific requirements for this building, but they also need to understand why those restrictions/ requirements are in place.  If the building is, say LEED certified and has achieved points for using a specific type of caulking, the person installing the windows or sealing around the vent pipes needs to understand that s/he can’t simply use whatever is in the truck.  The same applies for every aspect, from pouring the foundation to final cleanup and landscaping.  Never assume.  As someone who has invested a lot of years working in a specialized field (wildlife biology), it can become common to adopt certain understandings among one’s coworkers and assume that everyone else also understands the rules and regulations concerning your particular field.  Odds are they don’t.  Good, open communication is vital; one of my favourite expressions is, “I know you think you understand what I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard was not what I meant.“  The report, The SHIFT Report: Defining Sustainability and Selling it to Consumers speaks to this.  I also recommend HR and sustainability: partner or pioneer? and World Business Council for Sustainable Development: People Matter – Inspiring employees about sustainability (.pdf)
  2. Understand Costs and Value:  Sticking with green building for a moment, one of the most popular misconceptions is the ‘costs’ associated with green building, and people want to know how much more it will cost to ‘build green’.  There are different kinds of costs, however, and these need to be considered.  Up-front cost is obvious, but there’s also the cost of ongoing repair/maintenance and life cycle cost.  There are also environmental costs.  Installing a steel roof will cost more initially than an asphalt shingle roof, but will last 50 years instead of 15-20 and the steel roof is completely recyclable at the end of its lifespan.  There’s an interesting article called Sustainability: the axeman’s friend? that speaks to this on a corporate level.
  3. Keep it Authentic: Sustainability in every field must be part of a larger ethic.  In a report I read a few years ago, the ‘triple bottom line’ was referred to as a three-legged stool.  The most important message for me in that was, “It’s not  just important  to remember that if you remove one of the legs of the stool, the stool falls over.  What’s important is that it doesn’t matter which of the legs you remove; the stool still falls over.”  Integrating sustainable choices into your personal and/or business life cannot be kept separate from the rest of your work or personal life.  And from a corporate perspective, integrating sustainability into your business must operate on every level.  Some twenty five years ago, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton bet the company’s president (Sam Glass) that if the company reached a certain sales goal, he’d do the hula on Wall Street.  Well, they did and he did.  It garnered publicity for the company, but it also demonstrated Mr. Walton’s dedication to his business and his staff.  For a successful shift toward sustainability, every level of a company must be engaged, from the board room to the mail room.  For more examples, I recommend “In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman.  Seth Godin wrote a blog post recently titled, ‘Organizing for joy’ that speaks well of how the entire structure of business is changing, and you may wish to take a look at Google Office versus Facebook Office to see how these two companies encourage their employees’ creativity.  Obviously not every business can emulate these two offices, but everyone can make an effort to make their suppliers, coworkers and clients feel valued.  A ‘few’ years ago I did environmental inspection work for a pipeline construction contract and my perspective was that the only difference between the labourers and me was the colour of our hard hats (okay, and that they were paid four times what I was.)  Here’s a good example of a recent blog post: Appreciation of the CSR / Sustainability work you do.
  4. Embrace Change:  At the risk of overstating the obvious, today’s marketplace is not what it was twenty years ago, or even five years ago.  Being ‘green’ and incorporating sustainability into business strategies is neither a fad nor a trend.  Not only are more companies generating CSR (corporate sustainability reporting) strategies and implementing changes in the way they do business than ever before, but consumers are more informed than ever before.  Social networking is becoming ubiquitous, and smart companies are incorporating this into their business strategies by encouraging their employees to become involved through blogs, Facebook pages, user forums, Twitter, etc.  For example, on one of the photography forums of which I am a member, representatives from camera companies and businesses involved with different aspects of photography self-identify who they are and provide their expertise in answering questions put forth by other users.  Whom are the forum’s users most likely to remember regarding purchasing decisions?
  5. Encourage Peer to Peer Networking:  While it’s valuable within a company for those at the corporate office to demonstrate their commitments to sustainability, it’s also important for members at every level to encourage others to offer their best.  An example I came across recently comes from the long-distance trucking industry.  In the US, the current administration is bringing forth new measures to reduce CO2 emissions from trucks and buses by increasing fuel economy over the next several years.  In response to this, an article titled Tools for the truck driver addresses ideas such as using GPS to optimize route strategies.

Those are just a couple of ideas… feel free to add your own in the comments below!

Okay, the links for this week include:

That’s it for now.  Have a great week!

P.S. What could be ‘cooler’ than this? The Great Ben & Jerry’s Fair Trade Ice Cream Giveaway. And if you’re going out trick or treating on Sunday, check out: 4 tips for a healthier Halloween!

P.S. II, the sequel: ‘Young Robocop‘ bursts onto the Hallowe’en stage!  And if that isn’t cool enough for you, how about dressing up as a wind turbine?  I went to work once dressed as a voyageur; nobody noticed.

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