Sustainability efforts are often thought of in terms of the easy wins. Green Teams certainly do important things like encouraging employees to use both sides of paper, recycle more items, and make positive changes to the way they work. But Corporate Sustainability Collaborative member companies clearly envision a more ambitious view of what’s achievable.
At our December 2018 quarterly meeting, everyone in attendance had a chance to share their workplace’s greatest sustainability success from the year, and some of what they shared goes far beyond resource conservation.
We heard organizations like Vestas (which hosted the event) share their plan to have their building LEED Platinum re-certified, even under stricter criteria that exist now. We heard businesses like KINK-FM going carbon-neutral. Energy Trust of Oregon has a goal with its management team to go fully paperless. Other organizations like Heritage Bank, were going even bigger. Heritage Bank is instituting equity policies aimed at achieving equal pay for men and women. Elephants Deli and CLEAResult are actively centering equity in their purchasing, catering and vendor choices.
Some of the more traditional sustainability projects members highlighted even had lofty end goals. The catering arm of Elephants Deli is working to eliminate specific items like Styrofoam or throwaway plastic tongs – aiming for a goal to remove all single-use (especially plastic) items from their operations.
Businesses like Daimler and the Portland Trail Blazers took on the serious challenge of expanding employee engagement in sustainability beyond small groups of engaged employees. The Trail Blazers added a tour of their sustainability efforts into every new employee’s onboarding process. Daimler has recruited more than 300 employees into their Sustainability Club and started an Ambassadors program with the hope of engaging even more employees in environmental issues.
Some of the most impressive projects were about doing things that sound simple at first, but require serious effort to stay the course. For example, the Trail Blazers organization helps people at their events recycle, but they also sort through EVERY bag of waste bound for the landfill to pull out compostable and recyclable materials before it leaves the building.
Businesses always tell employees not to waste office supplies, but companies like The Standard went to the trouble of setting up a “Green House” to collect unused items for other co-workers to use.
Many workplaces offer an electric car charging station and a few bike parking spots, but companies like Vestas are adding more car charging equipment to meet employee demand and offering in-office bike tune-ups twice a year.
Every piece of paper saved, every kilowatt of electricity not needed, every gallon of gasoline not burned, every pound of “garbage” that was instead turned into compost or recycled into new items all make a difference. But real change clearly requires effort and dedication. The Corporate Sustainability Collaborative is incredibly proud of our member companies and the strides they are taking to address our biggest environmental and social challenges. We can’t wait to hear about these efforts and more at our next gathering in March 2019.