Steps to establishing a cohesive and effective sustainability management team

A graduate of Presidio’s Graduate School of Sustainable Management, Jamie Simon was Red Bull North America’s first Director of Sustainability, establishing the global giant’s internal sustainability platform. Currently, she is a Managing Partner with Canopy Strategies–a team of professionals aimed at delivering forward-looking corporate social responsibility vision through applied, practical solutions. With a long history of project and team management, Simon provided valuable insight into creating the infrastructure, communications platform and time frame needed to facilitate an effective Green Team.

What once was just a glorified buzzword has gone on to become the most substantial business practice movement of the past century. Sustainable business is no longer just a hypothetical notion, but a necessary aspect to any successful business model. With the impetus and desire to put a “Green Team” into place, the question is no longer, “What?” but instead, “How?”

First Steps

Start by outlining the Mission and Vision of the Green Team. Consider your current brand and make sure both the Mission and Vision are inline with existing brand values. Follow this initial step by getting buy-in from other company stakeholders and departments, including marketing, branding, operations and leadership. This will be essential every step of the way. Even if not directly involved, it’s important to let all employees know they’re included in the “greening” process, allowing them to claim ownership and be proud of their company’s corporate responsibility. Once established among the Green Team, share the Mission, Vision and ultimate objectives company-wide via frequent internal communications.

Get Organized

To start, I recommend organizing consistent meetings, encouraging frequent communication, dialog and brainstorming. Decide what will be organizationally and financially feasible for the team to accomplish. Prioritize this list based on the agreed upon parameters.
Once the Team is ready to tackle its first priority, give this project a name so that everyone within the Team and outside of it knows what it is they’re working toward.

What’s Next?

From here, determine which resources are necessary to make it happen. The following is an example as it relates to transitioning from bottled water to a filtered water system:
• Gather current bills on how much the company spends on bottled water.
• Get quotes from three different vendors on installing a filtered system.
• Collect literature on why filtered water will ultimately benefit the organization positively financially, socially and environmentally.
• Install the filters in a popular area and let the employees get excited about this new water.
• Compare the prices and show the results to the leadership. Undoubtedly, you are going to save the company money. (We saved one of our clients over $11,000 a year by switching them to a healthy option of filtrated water.)

Take Action

List and assign tasks to all team members. Flush out a budget and the resources required to see the project through to fruition. Make the plan as detailed as possible, including an ROI analysis. How long will it take to break even and create savings? Comparing both the tangible costs of “old” versus “new”, provide the results to employees. Set a timeline and then review the plan, making sure it meets the original goal (Mission and Vision). Follow this with approval on budgets and resources from your organization’s overseeing parties and then set the plan into action.

This workflow will help you establish and motivate your company’s Green Team now and in the future. Above all, Simon asserts the importance of company wide involvement. With greener pastures on the horizon, it’s important we reach our sustainability goals together, as a team and as a collective dedicated to a brighter future through better business practice.

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