Green teams and employee engagement. These two buzz words seems to be gaining traction. Earlier this year, GreenBiz.com launched a new green team center. And the topic is starting to be included on conference agendas; Communicating Sustainability 2010, hosted by Applied Materials next week, includes an emphasis on employee engagement.
Earlier today I participated in the latest green team offering, a Webinar on Green Teams and Employee Engagement: How Volunteers Can Help Meet Corporate Sustainability Goals, sponsored by AltaTerra Research. The session summarized AltaTerra’s recent research on how to engage volunteer green teams in advancing organizational business and sustainability goals, and I believe a white paper will be following shortly.
Things perked up for me when Lorin May, Senior Manager, Environment Programs at eBay, provided an update on how it is engaging employees on sustainability and green teams. Here are three examples of how eBay is using green teams to meet corporate sustainability goals:
- Connect green teams to other business functions
- Develop processes for idea generation and action
- Engage green teams to be part of educational campaigns
Connect to Other Business Functions
A key tension with green teams is how to keep their grassroots nature alive and thriving, while at the same time connecting their activities with the larger sustainability and business functions. The line starts to get a bit fuzzy between corporate sustainability programs and the role of green teams.
I think eBay is doing a really great job on this front by the creation of a Sustainability Steering Committee, a multi-disciplinary group headed by its CEO that includes representation from facilities, procurement, travel and operations. A representative from the Green Team also sits on the Committee.
Develop Processes for Idea Generation and Action
eBay held a Big Green Idea Contest, open to all employees, to identify ways the company could meet its GHG reduction goal. To link the ideas to its broader sustainability goals, the ideas were screened by the Sustainability Steering Committee and employees were able to vote on the top ten ideas. eBay is currently implementing the top five ideas.
And one of these ideas resulted in a new product idea: simple, greener packaging for eBay products, the eBay Box. The box idea was the grand prize winner at the eBay Innovation Expo. Basically, it’s a durable box that’s been designed to be used over and over and over again. The idea has the potential to make a real impact, given the size of eBay’s marketplace where many of its buyers are also sellers and sellers are also buyers, creating an ecosystem of re-usable boxes.
I have spoken to other companies where these idea contests fall short because there is no follow-up. But clearly at eBay, they have put people and processes in place to put employees’ best ideas into action.
Engage green teams to be part of educational campaigns
At eBay’s corporate headquarters In San Jose, the group that oversees facilities management rolled out a new “Zero Waste for Green Space” program, which could help the company divert as much as 95% of its trash from going to a landfill. Part of the strategy was to remove trash cans from individual employee desks and replace them with recycle and compost bins. I think this is a great strategy that works because you have to think twice before you throw something away.
eBay turned to its green teams to help support the educational campaign and take the edge off the shock of showing up one day to work to find your trash can is now a blue bin. And this program will impact the bottom line by saving money on landfill disposal fees. And by encouraging recycling, eBay employees worldwide could save more than 6,000 trees per year by recycling paper.
eBay is also leveraging metrics to communicate the impact of the zero waste program by tracking waste diversion from landfill and associated cost savings.
Other Green Team Resources
- Ten Best Practices for Building Green Teams
- Generating Sustainable Value: Moving Beyond Green Teams to Transformation Collaboratives
- Engaged Organization
- Corp Green (shameless self promotion–this is a new offering from Green Impact)
Deborah Fleischer is President of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies engage employees, strengthen relationships with stakeholders, launch profitable green initiatives and communicate about their successes and challenges. Check out our new green team tool, Corp Green.