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Archive for the ‘workplace’ Category

VIEWS: Going Green at Women Owned Businesses

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on April 17, 2009

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

On Wednesday night I had the great pleasure to speak at the Greater DC Chapter of the National Association of Business Owners as part of their Entrepreneurial Excellence Series. The night’s topic was Going Green is Good For Business, and I was joined by two other fabulous women:

Antonella LoRe is the founder of Capital Green Cleaning a new commercial cleaning company serving the Washington, DC area. Capital Green Cleaning uses only environmentally-friendly cleaning products and is certified by the Green Clean Institute. She told the group about her decision to start a green business in the midst of the recession and the reality that green doesn’t to be more expensive.

Diane MacEachern is an entrepreneur, speaker, and author of multiple books including Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World. Diane is passionate about empowering consumers — especially women — to use their marketplace clout to protect the environment, and she spoke eloquently about the power of women business owners to positively impact the environment.

Although it was pouring down rain and I was definitely coming down with a cold, I had a warm fuzzy feeling sitting with other women business owners talking about issues so near to my heart AND so critical to our collective success in the marketplace.

I find that small business owners often have “green” values, but don’t know how to act upon them. Day to day pressures of payroll, purchasing, and business development sweep everything else aside—including the desire to be environmentally friendly. What I hope the women at the NAWBO event took away from our talk is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other: we can do good AND do well at the same time.

Posted in environmental, views, workplace | 1 Comment »

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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NEWS: Winning Sustainability Strategies – A Round-Up of Recent Reports

Posted by dbuhrau on March 23, 2009

Recent studies show that remote conferencing is the number one strategy for greening businesses, and that programs are much more successful when organizations put a single person in charge of sustainability efforts.

In a survey by InterCall, a conferencing solutions firm, two-thirds of the 900 employees surveyed said their companies use remote conferencing to avoid business travel and reduce the size of their carbon footprint, beating out recycling and working with greener suppliers.

Telephone conferencing is the most popular, according to the survey, with 75% of companies relying on conference calls to get the job done. But web and video technologies have improved drastically in recent years, and 63% of respondents say that they meet via the internet, while half use videoconferencing on a regular basis.

The main reason that conferencing is becoming such a popular green strategy seems to be that it’s easy and cheap. According to some survey respondents, conferencing is a behavior change that businesses can make immediately without expensive changes to their product or processes – a win-win for everybody.

And the payoffs can be significant: British Telecom, for example, cut CO2 emissions by nearly 100,000 metric tons thanks to videoconferencing, which eliminated the need for more than 860,000 face-to-face staff meetings, according to an internal company survey.

There are other popular green strategies as well, according to a survey of HR executives by human resources firm Buck Consultants. Although their respondents also cited remote conferencing as their number one strategy (at 80%), 76% set policies to conserve paper, and 68% have implemented employee wellness programs.

Teleworking is on the rise as well, according to the InterCall survey. Seventy-one percent of respondents said their companies enable employees to telecommute on a full or part-time basis and of those, 25% actively encourage the practice.

Another interesting finding in the surveys is that among companies that have established sustainability programs, those that put a single person in charge of them are much more likely to get their employees behind the effort. According to the Buck survey, in companies with at least three-quarters of their employees actively involved in green programs, 71% have appointed individual leaders whereas only 29% do not have such a leader.

Incentives programs help, too. Among companies that provide rewards to encourage green behaviors, 77% provide special employee recognition, 36% give prize incentives, and 14% offer a monetary reward.

But there is still much more that organizations can do, says Don Sanford, a managing director at Buck. Specifically, he expects to see future growth in green training programs, environmentally responsible investment options, and recruiting employees with green skills.

Finally, it’s worth noting that successful green programs can have a positive effect well beyond a company’s environmental footprint. Sanford says that many employers now recognize that green programs in the workplace can promote social responsibility among workers and help retain top talent. And for those companies that embrace conferencing technologies, they not only reduce travel costs and facilitate speedier decision-making, they can also help employees reduce travel time, increase productivity, and achieve a better work-life balance. What’s more, it frees up road space and seats on public transportation – all of which are very positive.

To view the surveys and more information, see:

Report: Sustainability Efforts Require Individual Leadership

Conferencing Tops List of Green Business Strategies, Survey Finds

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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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EVENTS: Sustainability Careers for MBAs

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on September 1, 2007

Are you a current MBA student or recent graduate who is struggling with the independent job search that comes along with looking for a career that matches your passion for making a difference in the world? Are you confused about how to position your pre-MBA experience to help get you to where you want to be next? Or do you not even know what career options might be available to you and where to find sustainability job listings? We can help!

Join us for an interactive webinar discussing Sustainability Careers for MBAs. We’ll cover:

• An overview of career opportunities across common MBA concentrations such as marketing, finance, operations, and other areas — customized according to the interests of the call participants.
• An overview of generalist (or sometimes not so “generalist”!) career opportunities such as sustainability managers and consultants.
• How to position your pre-MBA experience to get your foot in the door with the type of organization best suited to your background and career plans. Plus, learn to guard against the #1 mistake made by job seekers in this field.
• Key job-search resources as well as resources to stay on top of your game and not be overwhelmed. Also, learn a surprising fact about recruiting for sustainability careers.

Please note that while this seminar is geared toward current MBA students and recent graduates, all are certainly welcome to join.

The webinar is hosted by Karen Seeh, Principal of jihi Consulting and an SSC Associate. Prior to her move into independent consulting, Karen worked for 10 years in the public, private, and non-profit sectors – starting as an early promoter of the triple-bottom-line and then moving into CSR as well as exploring hybrid business models. She has an MBA in International Business and Sustainable Enterprise from UNC-Chapel Hill and a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies from IU-Bloomington. Throughout her career, she herself has explored many avenues in sustainability and has provided advice to hundreds of students and job seekers.

Cost: $50

Sign-Up on Our Website for a Live Session
or
Download a Recorded Session from Our Online Store

Space is limited to 8 people 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.

If you have any questions, feel free to email SSC at info@sustainabilityconsulting.com or call us at 202-470-3248. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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NEWS: College students are concerned about the environment more than jobs.

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on June 27, 2007

A survey was conducted of more than 400 college students of the class of 2011 and their parents to determine whether or not there has been any change in overall attitude over a generation. The study found that while parents were more concerned about post-graduation employment, the college students were, in fact, more concerned about the environment. Both groups were equally concerned with making enough money to be self-sustained, good grades, and keeping up with schoolwork. Of the students polled, 18% stated that the environment was their biggest social concern. Also, 91% stated they would pick an employment position they were passionate about over earnings. When the class of 2011 graduates, time will tell if these ideals hold true.

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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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RESOURCES: How Green Is Your Meeting?

Posted by Jennifer Woofter on March 8, 2007

Now, your company can measure its environmental impact, thanks to a new service called the MeetGreen Calculator. This web-based service allows anyone to measure their meeting practices against green best practices. MeetGreen Calculator will give the user help in meeting these green standards. Examples include having attendees walk or use mass transit, buying food locally and donate left-overs to local food banks, using reusable cups and large-capacity water jugs rather than individual water bottles, and the like.

The results can lead to cost reduction, waste reduction, helping local communities, and the environment. The MeetGreen Calculator was recently used at the World Urban Forum. Ginny Stratton of Globe Foundation of Canada stated, “We are ecstatic to know that the host of practices we employed resulted in the highest possible MeetGreen rating and hope that the results of our efforts will create a legacy for future organizers of the World Urban Forum.” Some major companies that have employed the MeetGreen Calculator are the Sierra Club, US Green Building Council, Globe Foundation of Canada and the Business for Social Responsibility.

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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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