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NEWS: Corporate Sustainability: Employees Want the Change!

Posted by Brittany Durbin on July 17, 2008

Do you want the organization that you work for to be more environmentally and socially responsible, but are not sure how to make it happen? Do you feel that it may be too risky to bring up the subject to your superiors? Do you feel uneducated, unprepared, and under-resourced on the topic of corporate sustainability?

According to the findings of Fresh Marketing’s 2008 Corporate Sustainability Employee Study, you are not alone! Data collected from 129 respondents employed by organizations ranging from small to large in size revealed that 75% of employees do not believe that their firms are investing in corporate responsibility training. Yet, 9 out of 10 employees consider addressing environmental and social impacts to be related to businesses’ highest rated concern: brand reputation.

Such startling findings illustrate the first message of this study: Employees want the change! They clearly recognize the importance of CSR to their businesses, but do not have the knowledge or training to move the company forward. This brings us to the second important point: to paraphrase Ghandi, employees must be the change they wish to see in their company. Fresh Marketing challenges employees to use their creativity to develop methods for increasing positive impacts and reducing negative impacts. Of course, one cannot do this alone. Employees must influence their coworkers to get their creative juices flowing as well.

We certainly do not underestimate the challenge of this tall order. Fortunately, respondents not only shared views on their companies’ current social and environmental initiatives, but also provided tools and tactics for incorporating such initiatives into the company agenda.

Mike Dupee, an employee of Green Mountain Coffee, believes that the keys to success in CSR are rooted in the development of a core strategy or core values around which all initiatives and programs are centered. For example, Green Mountain Coffee identified four specific key areas for their social and environmental initiatives: poverty, solid waste, hunger, and energy. Dupee illustrates the importance of clearly identifying such areas by stating, “If the social and environmental work you are doing is not related to your business in a way that is easy to understand and validate, then you run the risk of creating something that is not going to last if times get rough.”

Respondents also offered their experience with how to best capture the attention of their coworkers. One example utilized by Catherine Sanders, a project manager at Morningstar, Inc., is an internal blog through which employees can offer suggestions on what they would like to see in the construction of a new office building as well as receive updates on the building’s progress and features. Sanders explains, “In this way, we both incorporate the input from our co-workers as well as have an interactive, engaging vehicle that helps us communicate our plans and priorities.” Considering the risks associated with exposing a company’s position on the sensitive subject of CSR, it is important for organizations to make such resources available to employees for open discussion, debate, risk measurement, and cost calculating.

Employees are calling for social and environmental responsibility, and they want to bring these values to work. The wise business executive will embrace this enthusiasm for change and willingness to learn as a strategic opportunity for CSR initiatives. Fresh Marketing affirms, “As we take bolder steps to ensure that businesses have a positive impact on our society, we will need to enlist more of our co-workers. This will mean that we all need to rethink, evaluate and speak up while we continue to do our jobs in a way that meets our job descriptions, our company’s profit goals and our personal values.”

Do YOU want the change? If you’d like to find out how to make your company more eco-friendly, check out Sustainability 101: A Toolkit For Business, written by our very own Jennifer Woofter in collaboration with Anca Novacovici. At just under 200 pages in length, this succinct introductory manual is designed to help organizations, whether committed to going green or still trying to get on board, become more socially and environmentally responsible. Sustainability 101: A Toolkit For Business is available for download or in paperback at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble online (www.bn.com), or directly through our publisher, Lulu.com (http://www.lulu.com/content/2454607). Be sure to also visit SSC’s new Sustainability Marketplace online – go to www.sustainabilityconsulting.com and click on “Visit Our Store” to find publications like “Making Cents out of Sustainability,” “Green IT,” or “Ten Simple Ways to Cut Energy Costs.”

If you are a small business that is interested in hiring a sustainability consultant, contact us for a free consultation. We can help you think through the best way to approach “going green” with special attention to your small business realities. Call (202-470-3248) or email us (info@sustainabilityconsulting.com) today!

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