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RESOURCES: How to Approach Employee Education on Sustainability

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 8, 2009

The following is a summary of The Engaged Organization Corporate Employee Environmental Education Survey and Case Study Findings Business & Environment by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) Business and Environment Program, March 2009

Creating “green jobs” is a timely topic, and leading companies have recognized the essential role that their employees play in aligning daily operations with corporate values regarding the environment and sustainability. Indeed, meeting persistent environmental challenges is now so critical to a company’s success that environmental knowledge cannot be isolated within an organization, but must be pervasive. Or put briefly, all jobs are now “green jobs.”

This is particularly true in troubled economic times because engaged employees are a business’ prime resource in cutting costs and finding innovative ways to reduce the firm’s environmental and social impacts. A survey to investigate this important topic finds that, despite some differences among companies, there are clear trends how leading companies approach internal environment and sustainability (E&S) employee education and engagement. Some of the key findings are:

Environment & Sustainability Knowledge Is Valuable

NEEF’s survey reveals that 65 percent of respondents value job candidates’ E&S knowledge, while 78 percent of respondents believe that the value of job candidates’ E&S knowledge will increase in importance as a hiring factor within five years.

Environment & Sustainability Education Is a Growing Trend

Companies are not only anticipating that the value of E&S knowledge will increase, many are already providing some education to their employees about these topics. Seventy-five percent of companies educate employees about corporate E&S goals and 56 percent of the respondents believe that their company has an advanced or very advanced E&S education program. The survey also indicated that many companies without an E&S education program are likely to adopt one soon.

E & S Approaches Vary Among Companies

The office responsible for E&S education varies among companies. Most companies cover a variety of environmental topics when communicating with employees. The most common topics include general E&S information and actions that can conserve or protect resources. According to survey respondents, the most important motivating factors for employees are concern for the environment and society, support or a mandate from the CEO, company reputation, and job satisfaction.

For several companies with effective E&S education programs, employee education is part of the companies’ culture, often beginning with the hiring process, as in the case of Clean Clothes, Inc. and Interface. Successful programs often tie the education program to the company’s mission and goals and performance evaluation processes. Most of the companies studied stressed the importance of involving all employees in a personal way. For example, Wal-Mart adjusts information to make it relevant to employees’ personal lives as well as their jobs. And companies like Stonyfield emphasized that measuring E&S performance is key to driving progress, as well as education.

Other creative processes used by organizations to influence employees include multi-departmental leadership, employee-led “green” teams, awards, online training, mixed-media communications, and performance incentives. In addition, several companies worked with external partners including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to create successful E&S education programs, as in the case of Johnson & Johnson. But interestingly, companies often used more than one model in structuring their E&S education efforts, and the efforts often extended beyond employees to include suppliers and customers.

Challenges Still Exist

Despite the strong value placed on E&S education, companies revealed several challenges they face when engaging employees, including lack of money, time, resources and executive support. The survey and case studies generally highlighted six needs related to E&S education:

1. Education tools such as case studies, success stories, and training materials to help implement E&S education programs
2. General, as well as job-specific, educational information to raise environmental awareness and to help make the business case for E&S education
3. Credible third-party partners to help companies develop training materials, as well as to make the business case for E&S education
4. Methods to reach out to employees who were not yet interested in the environment or sustainability issues
5. Appropriate indicators for measuring the impact of E&S education, beyond just anecdotes
6. Forums for identifying and sharing models and best practices related to E&S education

SME CASE STUDY

In addition to the survey, case studies provide a closer look at formal and informal employee educational methods and programs among companies of varying sizes in different sectors. One of the featured case studies – Clean Clothes, Inc. (brand name Maggie’s Organics) – documents best practices and lessons learned for a small company of 13 employees.

Their Key Lessons:

1. Embed sustainability in your culture and product
2. Foster a culture of learning
3. Involve all employees in problem-solving
4. Use credible third-party information to make the case for environmental improvements
5. Influence the supply chain through education and dialog
6. Make the business case internally as well as with business partners

Some Highlights of Their Story:

– They’ve never had a formal environmental education or training program. Environmental education is just part of what they do, and so is reflected in their products and how they run the business and work with employees. It’s part of the mission, values and founding principles, and therefore it’s important for all employees to be involved in environmental decision-making.

– They also start at the beginning by screening new employees for their knowledge about organics and organic cotton. As a result, they have a corporate culture that attracts employees who are environmentally aware.

– They try to “walk the talk” in the office. They completed an extensive energy audit of the office building last year and now have a programmable thermostat. They also try to do little things around the office – like not using sticky notes and always printing double-sided.

– In the words of their president and owner, Bena Burda, “Maggie’s is small, so there is no single champion or department for environmental education — all employees are involved. And our impact has really spread beyond our 13 employees.”

– As a matter of course, they share their knowledge about environmental practices for apparel production with their partners in Nicaragua as well as U.S.-based manufacturers. And since the apparel industry is under stress, making the business case is becoming an increasingly important motivating factor. As an example, they worked with a sock finisher to switch from chlorine to hydrogen peroxide, and it saved him money.

– According to Burda, the toughest thing is convincing the management of their business partners to listen and to think outside the box. Especially when suppliers are under financial duress, it can be tough to try new methods.

– Their advice for others: Credible third-party information helps make the business case for environmental improvements. Specifically for them, when the Ecology Center included their produce in a Healthy Toy Rating, it was of real interest to one of their larger customers, Whole Foods.

– And finally, they’ve learned that their customers’ comments help, too, because informed customers can stimulate innovative ideas. So they use and suggest a log of customer comments that are regularly sent to all managers.

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RESOURCES: Telecommuting Done Right

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 7, 2009

We tell our clients that there are many green initiatives they can “try out” without a formal policy or program, but that telecommuting is not one of them. In fact, telecommuting is a green initiative that can go very wrong very quickly. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. Today, we look at a recent article that provides some insight into the topic: The Top Ten Strategies For Managers of Mobile Workers: Surviving and Thriving in the Emerging Mobile Workforce, by Terrence L. Gargiulo.

In order to be successful, organizations have always had to keep pace with shifts in competitive advantage. But what constitutes a competitive advantage changes over time. A hundred years ago, for instance, it was economies of scale and manufacturing. Then decades later, it was the managing of information that drove organizational transformation. Today, however, and looking forward, it will be the cultivation of rich relationships that drives success and competitiveness. In essence, employees will create value through interconnected relationships – relationships which need to be capable of synthesizing real-time information to create new products, services, data, or other relationships to respond to emerging market needs.

The extra twist for this competitive necessity, though, is the meteoric rise in mobile workers around the world. According to the IDC, 73% of the U.S. workforce, and 30% of the global workforce will be mobile by the year 2011. And although there are different ways of defining “mobile,” all of them have implications for how managers will nurture the rich relationships critical to remaining competitive. In managing an increasingly mobile workforce, some of the key benefits, challenges, and strategies for success are:

Benefits

Mobile workers can increase your influence and give you access to a broader range of talents, experience, and knowledge – bringing fresh ideas and innovative practices.

With the speed of business today, success as a manager rests on the shoulders of motivated, committed employees, and today’s employees want flexibility.

Mobile workers shift managers’ attention from activities to deliverables, and less time spent overseeing employees’ daily activities means more time to be strategic – a critical shift for successful managers and future competitiveness.

Mobile workers thrive on collaborative relationships, which can lead to a more dynamic style of interaction for managers. When handled well, managers can maintain their authority while also being more collegial. A win-win.

Challenges

A common fear is that mobile workers will be less productive, but as long as people do not abuse the flexibility extended to them, this is likely an irrational fear. Managers of remote workers need to reinvent their jobs – from concrete control and oversight to something less tangible. Re-designing workflows and performance metrics, as well as a healthy dose of patience, will go a long way in smoothing this transition.

Positional power exerts less influence with mobile workers, and good managers will need strong influence skills – a relational ability that depends heavily on trust. The energy and creativity it takes to cultivate trust and influence with remote workers is one of the biggest challenges of leading a mobile workforce.

Information sharing can suffer with fewer face-to-face interactions, but technology can play a powerful role in addressing this challenge.

Strategies for Success

Focus on building relationships. With a mobile workforce, you are now in the business of managing relationships, so prioritize regular and sufficient time to foster strong relationships with your mobile employees.

Consolidate and prioritize communications. Use email, IM, texting, blogging, and threaded discussions for relationship-driven communications (being personal and staying in touch). For important work content, though, assess the communication preferences of you and your team and always make the message clear and comprehensive. Don’t leave anything to assumptions.

Spend more time listening. When you are remote from your workers, it’s tempting to feel the need to convey more and more information – but don’t. Make listening and asking questions a priority, and it will not only create strong relationships, but will likely enhance productivity.

Manage deliverables, not activities. Lots of project work is well-suited to mobile workers, and even more task-driven roles can be effectively managed if broken into deliverables. Realize that many aspects of an employee’s job may need to be adjusted to accommodate a mobile work style.

Engage in more frequent and informal performance management activities. Remember, relationships are the heart of your job, so have ongoing, unstructured dialogs with your mobile workers about their goals and development plans – and try to adjust the style of this to each individual employee.

Give complete trust until a concrete behavioral reason exists not to. Mobile workers thrive when managers give them complete trust, so use trust to create strong relationships and performance.
And finally, leverage technology to support remote workers. Beyond email, IM, and phone, web conferencing will be critical for collaborating on projects in real-time.

Read the full article here.

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VIEWS: Why I Support The Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 6, 2009

by Jennifer Woofter, President of SSC

There has been a lot of talk about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a piece of legislation that would make it easier for workers to form a union in their workplace. In a nutshell, passage of EFCA would allow employees to start a union through a “majority sign-up”, speed up contract negotiations by introducing a mediation and arbitration process, and increase penalties against employers who violate labor laws. EFCA recently passed in the House of Representatives, but remains up for debate in the Senate. In the meantime, it seems like everyone has an opinion.

As a small business owner focusing on sustainability and social responsibility issues, I have one too. At a time when foreclosure rates are staggeringly high, even as CEOs receive millions in salary, bonuses, stock options, and other perks, it’s hard to believe that giving more power to the worker is a bad idea. On the other hand, as a CEO myself (albeit one that didn’t get a swanky package to our local country club or use of a company jet) I’m not exactly a patsy for the labor movement either. It’s exactly my middle-of-the-road stance that made me consider the Employee Free Choice Act so carefully.

The decline in unions over the last three decades can be linked to lower wages, fewer health benefits, and perhaps even the current economic crisis. For pro-union groups, EFCA is a panacea to cure all that is wrong with the corporate system. As freechoiceact.org puts it, EFCA “can restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security and benefits—and an opportunity to pursue their dreams.” Push through EFCA, these groups promise, and we’ll see a stronger middle class, more income equality between the “average worker” and her CEO, and greater fairness in the workplace.

Anti-union groups have a starkly different message, and oppose the legislation for three key reasons. The first claim is that EFCA actually takes away workers’ rights by replacing secret ballot voting with publicly signed “check card” campaigns. (What they fail to mention, incidentally, is that workers actually get to choose whether to forego an election in favor of the more expedient majority authorization process. For this reason, I tend to cast aside this protest as a canard by anti-union groups trying to cast themselves as protecting worker rights.)

The second complaint centers on the idea of mandatory arbitration. EFCA provides that either employers or employees may request mediation, and eventually seek binding arbitration if no agreement on a first contract has been reached after 90 days of bargaining. Opponents of EFCA claim that mandatory binding arbitration provides motivation for either a union or employer to engage in bad faith bargaining until the end of the negotiating period. This is a reasonable point to make, and worth considering. At the same time, it’s worth asking if binding mandatory arbitration is a better alternative that then current system, where employers can delay negotiating almost indefinitely, hiring consultants (often the lawyers who write anti-EFCA editorials) that teach them how to stall and prolong the bargaining process. Even when found guilty of bad faith bargaining, the penalty for these companies is usually to “resume bargaining”. For a company that is successfully stalling the union efforts, this penalty does not even equate to a slap on the wrist. Suddenly, a faster contract process—even at the risk of binding arbitration—doesn’t seem so bad.

The final point that anti-union groups make is that EFCA mandates tougher penalties for employers who are found to violate labor laws, but leaves the penalties for violations by union organizers untouched. In my book, this is the strongest criticism of the Employee Free Choice Act. Unions clearly aren’t perfect, and there have been instances of intimidation and coercion tactics from organizers that rival the worst of the “one-on-one informational meetings” held so often by employers facing a union drive. But in an era when 82% of employers faced with organizing campaigns hire exorbitantly paid union-busting consultants and when only 38% of new unions are able to finalize a contract with management within a year of their certification—well, my sympathies have to remain with the worker.

The blatant anti-union rhetoric is at an all-time high, and not just by the usual “bad guys” of steel mills and coal mines. Don’t believe me? You can listen yourself to a recorded telephone conference call from October 17, hosted by Bank of America and led by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. In the hour-long phone call, obtained by the Huffington Post, Mr. Marcus raged against EFCA, saying that its passage would turn America “into France”. He called for companies to send millions of dollars to anti-EFCA congressional candidates and stated that CEOs at companies not getting involved in opposing EFCA “should be shot”. Not to put too fine a point on it, he claimed these CEOS should be “thrown out of their goddamn jobs.”

Now, I’m not upset with Mr. Marcus, whose claim that he could have been on a “350 foot boat out in the Mediterranean” instead of on that expletive-laced phone call says a lot about his ability to separate his personal life from the economy, which he frames as “a disaster, a total absolute disaster”. What irritates me is that the call was hosted by Bank of America, who just three days earlier had received $25 billion in federal bailout funds. At least one other bailout recipient, AIG, also had a representative present on the call.

The fact that companies like Bank of America and AIG are participating in calls like this one—which can hardly be described as a thoughtful look at the issue—tells me that anti-labor sentiment is present throughout big business. To be fair, neither company has formally come out against EFCA, and Bank of America at least discussed the pros and cons of EFCA in a research document released two weeks after that call. But for me, it’s about the attitude.

It’s not just the traditional blue collar industries that feel it’s necessary to demonize unions and limit worker rights—it’s managers at your bank down the street. Given the fact that companies receiving billions in bailout money are simultaneously soliciting ideas on how to best funnel money to organizations and candidates opposing EFCA—well, that tells me the system of oversight and accountability is broken.

Unions aren’t perfect, but they offer a voice to employees who have too often been left out of the conversation. At the end of the day, I support EFCA because I believe every employee—from the CEO to the janitor—has a stake in the success of our companies. When we all get a place at the table, we have the best chance of creating a marketplace that succeeds. If you disagree, and think that our current system is working, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. You can reach me on my yacht off the coast of France.

Jennifer Woofter is the president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, a firm that helps organizations address their social and environmental impacts. She does not own a yacht.

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VIEWS: SSC Thoughts on Virtual Interns

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on January 16, 2009

This week, SSC President Jennifer Woofter was interviewed by The Examiner on what makes a successful virtual intern. If you are thinking about applying for one of these positions (especially with us!), we hope you’ll take the time to review the article, which focuses on the do’s and don’ts of virtual internships:

“When we interview for virtual internship positions, we are really looking for two things. First, interns need to be self-starters. Because they won’t be in our office each day, I need to know that they will be diligent with deadlines, make good use of their time and come back to me if they have the ability to take on additional projects,” said Woofter. “Second, we’re looking for good communicators—we rely on Web conferences, e-mails and phone calls to manage the internship process, and it’s important that interns be able to clearly tell me what’s working and where they need more help and guidance.”

Read the entire article here.

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PEOPLE: Meet our Spring 2009 Intern Team

Posted by dbuhrau on January 10, 2009

We’re so pleased to have a great team of research and marketing interns this Spring-they are an amazing group of talented students and recent grads that are making a huge contribution to our work. Read on for their details…

Bari Levine is a senior Geography major at the University of Maryland, College Park with a concentration in Global Environmental Change. After conducting research on corporate social responsibility and sustainability in the business sector for a previous internship, Bari became interested in learning as much as she can about how businesses can positively contribute to the United States’ shift towards sustainability. Bari hopes to help the environment and combat climate change through the changing of business practices. Bari is from outside Philadelphia and enjoys spending time with family, friends, her many pets, and traveling.

Matthew Savage has 10 years of diverse experience, working for British Petroleum in both France and the UK before starting his own business. Matthew is a graduate of UCLA with a degree in International Economics. He has a particular interest in water conservation.

Tracy Jarvis, Ph.D. has a professional background in coaching, consulting, training, and academia. She ran a coaching and consulting business specializing in strategic change and alignment, and before that was a professor of American Politics. After a decade of serious interest in sustainability, she now wishes to move into the sustainability sector with a focus on communications and education.

Lucinda Brown has an MBA from Georgetown University and a BFA in Visual Communications from Syracuse University. As a member of an elite commercial real estate brokerage team on Wall Street, she represented two first class office buildings and Dean Witter Reynolds in a major lease transaction. While living in Mexico City, she gained first hand management experience as General Manager of the US’s second largest Embassy Employees Association in the world. Currently residing outside Washington, DC, Ms. Brown has also lived abroad in London, Florence and Rangoon. Her hobbies include paper making, jewelry making and home scale permaculture.

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PEOPLE: Meet the Fall 2008 Intern Team

Posted by dbuhrau on October 27, 2008

We’re so pleased to have a great team of research and marketing interns this fall–they are an amazing group of talented students and recent grads that are making a huge contribution to our work. Read on for their details…

Michelle Lopez has spent the last 10 years working in non-profit human rights and development organizations.  She also has a background in social sustainability issues, and is particularly interested in how organizations and companies can cut their carbon emissions while maintaining a productive and happy workforce.

Lenora Mathis received her undergraduate degree from Austin College, and a Masters from Texas Women’s University. She works in the green and sustainable department at Cedar Valley College where she specializes in educating the public about general sustainable development practices including sustainable development.  She is also currently a law student at Texas Wesyelan University.

Megha Varma has a professional background in labor and social justice organizing. She worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where she specialized in representing healthcare workers. She then went on to earn a MA in Planning and Sustainable Development from University College Cork in Ireland. She has particular interest in sustainable urban design.

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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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NEWS: Employee Volunteer Programs Help Companies Gain Competitive Advantage

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on May 17, 2007

Deloitte & Touche USA LLP recently conducted a survey entitled 2007 IMPACT, which studied Generation Y employees (ages 18-26) and community service. The conclusion is that Generation Y employees have a strong desire to engage in community service, and want employers to offer time and opportunities to do community service. The survey found the following:

  • 62% want to work for companies that give them opportunities to engage in community service.
  • 80% identify as volunteers.
  • 74% state they do volunteer work to give back to the community or to fulfill a personal desire to give back.
  • 82% believe volunteer work helps build leadership skills.
  • 26% stated that community service engagements were mentioned at their job recruitment.

So how does your employee volunteer program stack up?

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EVENT: Webinar – Creating a Family Friendly Workplace

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 15, 2007

Job sharing, telecommuting, and even lactation rooms—companies all over America are instituting policies and programs that benefit employees with children. Family-friendly benefits not only make working parents happy, but they also improve job efficiency and reduce employee turnover.

Employees are seeking out organizations that have better work-life balance policies, and organizations stuck in the old model are losing out on talent and productivity. But how exactly do you create a “family friendly” workplace?

SSC is pleased to offer Creating a Family Friendly Workplace, an interactive “webinar” focusing on simple and cost-effective ways to assist working parents while also improving productivity and job performance. This webinar will cover:

The benefits of a family friendly workplace for both employees and your organization.

The key policies involved with making your workplace “family friendly” and ensuring a healthy work-life balance.

Resources to help you make smart policy decisions and examples of successes in workplaces

— How to not leave out the single/childless employees, and ways a “family friendly office” can benefit all employees.

Strategic Sustainability Consulting is pleased to have Lori Kitchen facilitate this workshop. Lori is SSC’s Special Projects Manager and will be receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from American University. Along with her B.A. she is also receiving a special certificate from AU’s Women and Politics Institute in Women and Politics, Policy, and Political Leadership. Lori is a member of the Women & Politics Institute’s Young Women Leaders Board Political Training Program. As such, Lori is very interested in women in the work place and has devoted much of her study to the topic of family friendly workplaces and work-life balance.

Cost: $35

Register at: www.sustainabilityconsulting.com (click “Events”)

Space is limited to ensure an interactive experience where you can ask questions and get real answers, so reserve your space today. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll receive an email with log-in and call-in details.

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NEWS: Lack of Incentives Prevent Employees Going Green at Work

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on February 23, 2007

It appears that UK employees are looking to their employers to lead the social responsible movement by example. This comes in major contrast to individual efforts at home to ease the environmental footprint. At home, 91% of the UK public turn off lights not in use, and 54% use only enough water for what they need, whereas only 10% of employees employ such practices. This could be the result of the 43% who believe that their employers talk the socially responsible talk, but don’t walk it. An astonishing 49% of employees believe that their employers waste too much electricity, and 37% of employees said they would like more job-training on being environmentally friendly.

Chris Gabriel, head of Solutions Marketing, Logistics UK, believes, “This research shows that 2007 must be the year for turning well-meaning talk into action.” UK Logistics, along with a government environmental charity Global Action Plan, recommends some key steps in getting companies to get their employees to follow suit:

  • Incentives – companies need to offer employees incentives to bring environmental actions into the workplace. These include, but are not limited to, a better work-life balance, and energy saving profit sharing. Governments should also offer tax incentives to companies working to become green. This will help jump start compliance.
  • Leadership – employers must show commitment to environmental responsibility before employees will themselves commit. Employees are less likely to follow through if they know their employers don’t care.
  • Innovation – Besides traditional approaches to environmental responsibility, like recycling, employers should invest in better building design, or automatic heating and cooling systems.
  • Technology – employing strategies like eco-friendly kettles which use less energy to heat up, or video conferencing, which reduces employee travel, can help employers cut costs and save the environment.
  • Education – teaching employees about environmental responsibility, as well as encouraging eco-friendly attitudes and practices at work. This includes small steps like putting computers in “stand-by” or “hibernating” modes to big steps like employee seminars.

By following these ideas, companies can better themselves and their employees. Read more here.

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