Whether you are a corporation, university, government agency, or faith-based organization, if you have a commitment to sustainability, you might want to consider empowering your green champions. From stand alone, grassroots, voluntary, bottoms-up efforts to more mature engagement efforts that are connected to bigger enterprise goals, this paper highlights some of the recent trends and best practices we see emerging from leading companies, universities and governmental agencies working to empower their green champions.

Green Teams have traditionally been defined as a grassroots, voluntary effort self-organized by employees to educate and empower fellow employees around sustainability, usually with an internal, operational focus. More mature employee engagement efforts look slightly different, characterized by the following:

  • Engage Senior Management as Green Champions
  • Link to corporate goals
  • Some overall structure and direction
  • Consistent brand and message

In late 2009 Green Impact and Green Biz.com published a white paper highlighting 10 best practices for building green teams. Based on our recent work with University of California, San Francisco, the County of Ventura and others, we see the following emerging trends and best practices for engaging employees, members, and stakeholders:

  • Engage Senior Management as Green Champions
  • Use Video to Tell Your Story
  • Design an Action-Oriented Website
  • Launch an Office Certification Program
  • Use a Web-Based Tool to Make it Easy to Launch New Campaigns

Engage Senior Management as Green Champions

To add a bit of spice and interest to what might sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher saying “whaa-whaa-whaa,” for the County of Ventura’s sustainability Website and video, they engaged senior leaders from a variety of Departments ranging from the Fire Chief to the Sheriff to the County Executive Officer.

UCSF engaged thought leaders from across the campus to model new behaviors in its sustainability video.  After we capture the audience’s attention with a fun fictional scenario in the emergency room, including the hero Dr. McGreeny, the audience is inspired to take action and do their part.  Rather than preaching to folks, we engaged high-level thought leaders from the key schools at UCSF, ranging from the Medical School, Medical Center, School of Pharmacy, School of Nursing and Dental School, to show what green actions they personally take.  This was a key strategy for beginning to build a LiveGreen culture where sustainable actions are the norm.

Use Video to Tell your Story

Video is the perfect medium for telling your green story.  Part of the strategy for engaging employees with the County of Ventura was to inform and engage all new employees.  The initial concept for the video was to have something to show at new employee orientation.  But it also lives on the homepage of the Website and was successfully shown at a Board of Supervisors meeting to kick off the program.

“Producing a video took more work than we realized, but it was worth it.  The value of engaging a range of stakeholders across different departments was priceless and an unexpected benefit of creating the video,” stressed Sue Hughes, County Deputy Executive Officer. “The final product is being used to get the word out across multiple channels:  local television, the Board of Supervisors, new employee orientation, and the Website.”

By engaging the County’s most senior management in the video, as well as front-line employees, the video engaged green champions to model green behaviors and initiated the process of creating a recognizable, sustainable brand.

Create a Sustainability Hubhomepage

The County of Ventura and UCSF both have stand alone, branded sustainability hubs that make it easy to find resources and information.  The County of Ventura integrated information on how to be green not just at work, but also at home and in the community.  The site is action-oriented, with a featured action rotating on the homepage, along with a featured success story and green champion highlight.  The home page also includes a very clear call to action.

ucsfWhen UCSF’s Sustainability Manager Gail Lee came to UCSF, she decided to launch a new sustainability Website, creating a hub for green information and resources. To raise awareness of her program and to highlight UCSF’s successes, she created a section on the home page of the Website that highlights three sustainability stories each month. The stories highlight project successes, green champions and promote specific calls to action, such as leasing an electric car or biking to work.  Success stories are a great way to show you are making progress, build momentum, and an opportunity to keep emphasizing why sustainability matters.

Launch an Office Certification Program

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A key challenge for UCSF is how to engage a diversity of offices, labs, clinics, and work settings spread across multiple campuses. The university implemented a LivingGreen Office Certification program that includes a checklist and audit to help employees green their operations. To date, over offices have been certified.  A series of posters, featuring senior leaders from each school and a friendly competition was developed to spark interest.  Over the past year, over 25 offices, labs, and clinics have been certified.



Use a Web-Based Tool to Make it Easy to Launch New Campaigns

DashboardThe County of Ventura also worked with Green Impact to create a customized Web-based tool to harnesses the power of grassroots green teams throughout the County. The engagement tool was designed to spark friendly competition by allowing Departments to see how their engagement level ranks compared to their peers. Unlike some of the other cloud-based tools available, the tool was integrated directly into the County’s server.  The tool provides a dashboard that allows the County to track at a glance which initiatives have gained traction.

Learn More

See these other blog posts for more trends and tips on employee engagement:

1.  Telling Your Sustainability Story

2.  Six Green Campaign Ideas (in time for Earth Day)

3.  Five Tips for Creating a Winning Sustainability Video

Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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