If you think the concept of “small actions can have a big impact” is passé, think again. Last week, the latest attempt to show that “one act of green can unleash a wave of positive change” was launched by the Corporate Eco Forum (CEF), a membership organization for Fortune 500 companies that demonstrate a serious commitment to environment as a business strategy issue.
Under the promising title, The Power of Green, CEF’s new website is showcasing inspiring stories of employees at CEF member companies taking green action, like John Bradburn of GM, who taught kids to build wildlife shelters from car parts or Lauren Swinkey of Cisco, who saved over 24,000 pounds of plastic with packaging redesign.
The stories on the website are great but can this initiative really make a difference? To learn more we talked with Scott Macmurdo, CEF’s Associate Director.
TriplePundit: How did the Power of Green start and who is behind it?
Scott Macmurdo: Power of Green was first suggested by executives at CEF member companies, who asked us to choose one small act of green that all their employees could take on Earth Day. With over one million employees in the CEF network, they hoped we could pool all these small acts together to have one large, combined impact. We spent the next few months talking with experts to determine which act of green would be best. Should we ask everyone to join a green team? What about fixing leaking faucets?
Over and over again, the experts told us to abandon our one-size-fits all approach and instead, grant people the freedom to choose their own actions. Employees at diversified global companies have a wide variety of skills, roles, cultures, and languages, making it impossible to settle on one action that is appropriate for all. We listened, and designed Power of Green so that participants can choose an act of green that’s best for them. So far, we’ve received pledges from Spain to Mexico sharing plans to go meatless, recycle e-waste, or undertake a variety of other creative and inspiring actions.
3p: How is this initiative different from other initiatives we have seen in the past encouraging employees to take green actions?
SM: Past attempts like this have targeted employees within a single organization. AT&T’s Do One Thing initiative and Walmart’s My Sustainability Plan both come to mind. These programs can effectively motivate employees within a company, but lack integration into a broader movement. Power of Green mobilizes employees across 68 leading global companies, from Microsoft to FedEx to General Motors. We’re fostering collaboration among traditional competitors like Ernst & Young and KPMG, while also bringing together employees in the technology, banking, apparel, energy, and automotive sectors. To further emphasize collaboration, we count every action toward Earth Day Network’s Billion Acts of Green initiative. We believe people will be more inclined to act if they see themselves as part of a wave, rather than as an isolated ripple.
3p: What are the obstacles that prevent more employees from initiating green actions? How do you believe that this initiative will overcome these obstacles?
SM: People often hesitate to take small, everyday steps to reduce their environmental footprint because they don’t think their individual actions can make a difference. This feeling can be paralyzing, so we highlight inspiring stories of employees that made a major impact by doing something small to reduce waste, save energy, or conserve resources. Our introductory video emphasizes how one green act can create a “butterfly effect,” a concept from chaos theory asserting that a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon can cause a tornado to form in Texas. In other words, small steps can have a big impact. We also answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” by highlighting how going green saves money, advances careers, and improves health. It doesn’t hurt that we reward action with a chance to win some very exciting prizes, too.
3p: From all the stories you’ve gotten so far, what is your favorite one?
SM: My favorite story has to be that of Sharon Spina, a senior administrative assistant at Siemens who designed a waste reduction program inspired by The Sopranos. While her group was discussing ways to reduce waste, Sharon recalled a Sopranos episode that explained how pigs would eat absolutely anything. Sharon decided to contact local farmers and arrange for them to pick up food waste from her office and feed it to their pigs. Her plan lowered Siemens’ waste disposal costs and put food scraps to a more productive use than sitting in landfills. I love Sharon’s story because it demonstrates how some of the best ideas come from unexpected places. I’m also just a huge fan of The Sopranos.
3p: Finally, what should someone who wants to join the Power of Green do? Can anyone join it?
SM: Power of Green is extremely easy to join and open to everyone—regardless of employment status, age, or familiarity with sustainability. Anyone interested can visit www.tapthepowerofgreen.com, describe their act of green in a sentence or two, and click “submit.” It’s that easy—no usernames, passwords, or logins required. We also offer 10 simple ideas for anyone who needs inspiration. Integration with Twitter and Facebook allows participants to easily share what they’ve done and invite colleagues, friends, and family to join them.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris and an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Business School, CUNY SPS and Parsons the New School for Design, teaching courses in green business, sustainable design and new product development. You can follow Raz on Twitter.