Thinking of Launching Green Teams? Follow These Best Practices

Employee engagement plays an outsized role in increasing the effectiveness of any company’s sustainability and efficiency efforts.  You can only mandate so much from the top before you realize that having the larger team involved is critical to maintaining momentum.  Luckily, there are a lot of people passionate about efficiency and sustainability and want to get on-board.  One effort I had the privilege of watching unfold first hand was the launch of our Green Team effort at CA Technologies. The initiative has been very successful on multiple levels, from employee engagement to energy reduction to food waste reduction to recycling improvements.  Since the completion of their pilot Green Team projects, CA has taken the lessons learned and refined the processes we put in place and quickly scaled up to over 20 green Green Teams running in locations around the world.  

Jen Dudgeon, a sustainability pro with experience launching and managing a green team initiative for a Fortune 500 company, shared three key processes and best practices with me that have been found to be important in developing and launching effective and productive Green Teams.

Effectively Recruiting Green Team Members

"There is no Green Team unless you can identify local leadership," says Dudgeon.  "It is a priority to recruit local green team leaders via internal emails, through notices on the corporate website and by reaching out to local managers.  The great news is that there will likely be a lot of team members that are very interested in sustainability and want to be involved."
Once interested candidates have been identified, reach out to them to discuss the considerations that have to be taken into account before they can take on the role.  Some guidelines to consider:
  • It must be clear that they limit the amount of work time dedicated to the Green Team to 5% (max) of their work hours
  • Leading the Green Team cannot impact their performance relative to their existing job responsibilities
  • They must review the role and responsibilities with their manager and receive approval to take on the task
  • They also need to understand that this role will become part of their job description and that it will become a component of their review
Once the Captains are approved, they are responsible for recruiting local team members.  "We provide them with suggestions and materials to help them recruit and kick things off," says Dudgeon.  Once a team is defined, we work together to organize a kick-off meeting to review expectations and get the ball rolling.

Defining Business Expectations for Green Teams

The first step for every Green Team is to define a list of potential ideas that is important to the individual office / locale.  "We provide a list of dozens of potential project ideas, but there is not as much variation in projects as you would think," Dudgeon says.  "Every office I've worked with has done a recycling-improvement project and a "Turn it Off" campaign to encourage employees to turn off computers before leaving for the night and shut off lights in rooms that are not in use.  It makes sense, as these are very visible, low-cost projects.  That is not to say that there are not differences.  There have been some very cool regionally focused projects like a food waste reduction project in India that reduced food waste sent to composting by over 80% in just a few months."

Once the projects have been decided upon, consider making each Green Team responsible for developing a business case for the project and executing in a professional and timely manner.  Some of the expectations for each team include:
  • Developing a plan for each project.  "We provide a business plan template to make the process easier, and in many cases we even have much of the template pre-populated for projects that other teams have executed on already."
  • Gathering as much baseline data as possible on each project for use in ongoing metrics and analysis.
  • Participating in team calls with the Office of Sustainability and other Green Teams and reporting on progress
  • Measuring results and ROI
  • Sharing findings, both positive and negative, with other Green Teams
By defining expectations up front and holding the teams to a high standard of business success, positive results are more likely to follow.

Green Team Project Leadership

"One of the challenges we've had to address is that the team leaders may take too much personal responsibility for success and start to burn out," Dudgeon says.  "We work with the team leaders to help them develop team management skills and to find ways to keep the team motivated and ensure they execute."  

One key area of focus is working with teams to help make the transition from the planning stage of the project to the execution stage more successful.  Sharing success stories and challenges from other teams provides a sense of camaraderie and keeps involvement high.  An example would be defining reasonable timelines for project execution.  "By pacing projects appropriately, teams can more easily meet expectations and avoid the feeling of panic that can come with not meeting a deadline.  These projects are important to the business and have real societal benefits, but if the team members are only working on them for a few hours a week, reasonable expectations are key"

Being sure to define expectations and responsibilities in advance, while providing tools and support to make their jobs easier can result in highly productive local Green Teams and tremendous results.  

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