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Going Green: Generating Employee Buy In

Going green?  Almost as quickly as that particular phrase became a buzz word, it is becoming a business standard.  It is no secret that green business’ draw in more clients, form deeper networking relationships with other green companies, and save a tremendous amount of money each year on things such as energy bills.  Green ideas are both profitable and frugal; two concepts that often do not play well together.  That is probably the main attraction between sustainability, and a companies bottom line.  No longer is environmental consciousness for the former hippie, or the eco-athletically inclined.  Business CEO’s alike are becoming vastly aware of the charming benefits of a green atmosphere, and the advantages are not difficult to see.

A woman thinking about going green

Beginning a green campaign is not always easy, from start-up costs– which are eventually offset by savings, innovative ideas, employee buy in, and the hardest part of all– a change in habits.  Whether a company already has an action plan in place, or is still in the conceptual stage, their green dreams will never come to fruition lacking employee buy in.  Without the team jumping on the wagon, efforts could be viewed as yet another way for a company to pinch pennies.  Sharing heart and vision is key; here are some other tips to make it happen.


1.  Begin with a Green Team: Nothing creates buy in more than owning the idea or concept.  Select a few key employees from various departments, or even post a sign up, and allow them to dream up ideas on the who, what, where, why, and how of making their office green.  I have also heard of companies launching “town meetings”, where they gather their teams and allow open discussion to proposed green changes, allow questions to be asked, and address any fears of the new and proposed policies.


2.  Select a Charity: At a company I used to work for, we were approached by a local recycling program.  Paper Retriever recycling noticed that our lot was ideal to place one of their receptacles, thus making it available to the community.  The advantage to this was the pay back incentives.  For use of our lot, Paper Retriever would cut us check based on the amount of paper collected in the bin each month.  As employees, we selected a charity together, we placed small bins near copiers, in offices, in cubicles, and just about every reasonable place we could find.  After all, making it convenient for employees to participate is key.  Not only did our team quickly adapt to placing their papers in the recycling bins, but they began to bring papers from home.  They made total lifestyle changes when it came to the way they disposed of trash.  The paper recycling bin was our companies first green effort, and it launched a total green campaign and overhaul.  Nearly everyone jumped in!

3.  Make it Worth While– Cash is Key: We all like the idea of recognition for our efforts, and in the form of cash or gift cards, it is not hard to assume that the majority will jump in- both feet first.  Incentives can vary from gift cards, lunches, late start mornings, to quarterly or annual bonuses.  Be unique with who they are given to; give away incentives to employees who consistently turn off their lights and computers, shut their office doors to regulate temperatures, separate their office recyclables, come up with a new green idea, or use public transportation.  People work for rewards, and greenness will quickly become part of your companies DNA.

4.  Buy plants: Not only do they relax employees, create more oxygen in the air, and discharge negative ions from computers, they are also visual statements of the new green tempo.  In pretty much every office setting there is at least one employee who gardens as a hobby.  Set this employee in charge of caring for the plants, I am sure they would appreciate the desk break to tend the office greenery.

5.  Educate: Once a quarter, yearly, for five minutes during the company meeting, it doesn’t really matter, just set aside some time every now and then to educate employees on why they are doing what they are doing.  Understanding breeds responsibility, which in turn breeds action.  Unity is inevitable when there is a common bond or goal. No longer is good pay and great benefits incentive enough to keep an employee.  People long to feel like they are a part of something that is making a difference.  I recently read in Time Magazine that one third of employees would prefer to work at a green company.

6.  Make it Fun and not Dutiful: If going green is burdensome, then there will be no unity, and the vision will die.  Incentives help generate excitement, openness to ideas, concepts and suggestions create buy in, and realistic expectations lighten the load.

7.  Be Flexible, but Committed: This is absolutely a must.  The very nature of change is enough to generate discord and frustration.  It instantly pushes some people out.  Although those voices are sometimes the loudest, they are almost never the majority.  Be flexible in implementation, but committed tot he goal.  Those who remain typically show higher productivity, and a stronger commitment to the company and to the vision.

8.  Follow Through– Don’t Stop at the Vision: Casting the vision is not enough.  Starting out is always the most difficult part, but do not let the vision fall flat.  Revisit, reinvent, and restrategize until the flow becomes natural.  Get advice by networking with other green companies, and do not give up.

9.  Adapt Your Own Lifestyle: Employees need to see their upper management making changes too.  Make some obvious changes in your own life that show that you are adapting to a green lifestyle as well.  Recycle, talk about it, use plastic water bottles, a standard coffee cup, and anything you can think of to prove that this is important to you.

10.   Post Visible Results: Show employees how much less energy was consumed from month to month, how much money was given to a specific charity, what changes have been made to their work environment, goals for the following month, and any other statistic to generate excitement.  We love seeing what our efforts create, and we deserve to be excited over them.  Going green changes the culture of a company, so let it be easy and exciting.

Making small changes over a period of time can soften the blow, and keep the vision at the forefront.  It is worth while for companies, but be patient, employees will buy in, they just need a jumping off point.


Author: Jacob Martin Director of Marketing at US Water where we sell Green Products Like the Green Wave Salt-Free Water Softener.


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