Human Resources Going Green: Seven Green Teams Best Practices

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Here’s the exciting news for Human Resources leaders:

Green teams are emerging as The Secret Green Sauce path for many Human Resources departments successfully contributing toward their company’s efforts to grow revenues and cut costs through associate adoption of sustainable best practices.

The following Q&A outlines the seven Green Teams best practices that enable associates to create smart, healthy and green results:

Q. What does it mean to go green in an organization?
A. In terms of business metrics it means increased sales, lower costs and higher profits. Going green is a consumer-led revolution. Consumers are seeking ‘in me, on me and around me” solutions for their lives. The organizations that are going green are aligning with their customers’ goals. In doing so they are discovering cost leadership through improved resource efficiency. They are winning market share by winning customers products that are smart, healthy and green.

Q. Do most companies have formalized green programs in place? What are they?
A. The good news is that more and more companies are going green. The range of implementation varies from some companies just starting to those that are fully engaged. Typically there is a maturation process. Most companies begin with a focus upon limiting their risk of lawsuits and regulation. From the success in these efforts companies discover that going green really means cost effective use of resources. This link to profits accelerates growth in Green Team deployment. Now what has emerged is the discovery that going green sells! The most pioneering companies are going green to grow revenues.

Q. What is HR doing to incorporate green initiatives at some companies? Examples of best practices?
A. Going green holds great potential for the HR function to create measurable financial results. The most successful companies have created Green Teams of work associates. These Green Teams are identifying and implementing smart, healthy and green actions items. Green Teams can have a huge positive impact upon organizational success in three areas. First, businesses are finding a direct link between cutting waste/emissions and cutting costs. Second, associates are often the closest to the customers seeking products that are smart, healthy and green and therefore are often most capable of surfacing creative ideas for increasing revenues. And third surprise benefit is improved healthy behavior by associates that can lead to lower health care costs and increased worker productivity. Why? Because as associates educate themselves they begin to apply smart, healthy and green best practices to their own lives. The first time I found a Green Team in action was in a company where the Green Team was started by their HR director! This team has produced quantifying financial results and has sparked the growth of Green Teams throughout the company. Assisting their company in the design and development of Green Teams is a tremendous opportunity for the HR function to create increased value for their companies.

Q. What about preserving knowledge capital? How do companies retain talent and experience?
A. Great questions. The Millennial Generation (those born around 1986) are leading the adoption of sustainability. They see it as their future. HR surveys document that the Millennial Generation wants to work for a company aligned with their values. The path to attracting the Millennial Generation work associate is for a company to have a values-driven business culture aligned with their focus upon sustainability.

Q. Are rewards necessary to encourage green behavior in employees? What kinds have you come across?
A. The most mission critical requirement for engaging associates to go green is CEO leadership. Change in most organization comes with individual risks. CEOs must be engaged to assure associates that their willingness to “think outside the box” to implement smart, healthy and green innovations will be positively recognized. The result is typically an unleashing of increased productivity and positive innovation. My favorite example is an associate with one idea that today saves his company $1 million per year with ZERO incremental capital investment. This idea surfaced not because he was offered money but rather senior leadership encouragement!

Q. What percentage of employees are generally actively involved in green programs. What type of activities are they involved in?
A. Today in many companies the concept of going green is a “function” or “department.” Often it is led by a Chief Sustainability Officer. What the most successful companies are discovering is that going green is a best practice that should be part of every function and department. A Green Economic Revolution is taking place, similar to the revolution in information technologies (in fact the two are very much linked as the world moves from a molecule-centric economy to one build upon the electron). The most successful companies see going green as the integration of best practices that apply to all work activities.

Q. How has implementing green initiatives benefited organizations you’ve spoken to? Examples?
A. They are more profitable. They are more attractive to investors. Research is emerging that shows that the stock valuations of “more sustainable” companies are out performing the stock valuations of less sustainable companies. The list is exploding with successful companies from Coca-Cola, to PG&G, SunRun, Clif Bar, Apple, etc. etc. They key is that these companies are creating investor value selling more, winning cost leadership and doing so with less risk through their adoption of best practices for going smart, healthy and green. What I call The Secret Green Sauce.

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017,  a company that connects businesses with customers seeking smart, healthy and green solutions.

About Bill Roth

Bill Roth is the founder of Earth 2017, author of The Secret Green Sauce and a nationally-followed contributor to Entrepreneur.com, Triple Pundit, The Green Economy Post and Media Post on best business practices emerging from the smart, healthy and green global economy. He coaches entrepreneurs, business and community leaders on how to grow revenues, profits and jobs by going smart and green.
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