Leaders in Housing Development Training and Community Resilience
With nearly 240 members operating in every state, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico, NeighborWorks America is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working to achieve housing affordability and community resilience across the nation. As the leading trainer of housing and community development professionals, NeighborWorks offers grant funding, peer-exchange, technical assistance and other resources for building stronger communities and navigating the complex challenges facing the housing industry today.
Green Initiatives Across All Offices and At Home
With an abundance of green initiatives provided by the Green Business Bureau certification program, NeighborWorks America has been on a fast track to improving sustainability performance and becoming a green leader. The organization’s Green Committee meets quarterly to organize sustainability and community outreach plans and communicate progress with the rest of the divisions. The group includes representatives from all offices and major departments, a model example of using collaborative power to drive achievement.
Such practices include installing sensor-controlled lights and faucets, establishing battery recycling stations, launching organization-wide recycling programs, and reducing unnecessary waste from paper, plastic and other disposable materials. The organization has brought in a variety of indoor plants to improve office air quality and uses non-toxic supplies such as low-VOC paint to protect the health of staff and visitors. NeighborWorks has also invested in using supplies made from recycled content, kicked disposable plastic water bottles to the curb, and has even launched a composting program in one of their Field Offices.
All offices, including the D.C. Headquarters and five Field Offices, have incorporated these sustainable practices into their operations and have achieved and maintained Gold or Silver certification levels.
Employee Engagement and Organization-Wide Events
But the green achievements don’t stop there. In their annual “Get Green, Get Clean” week, all NeighborWorks staff engage in practical solutions for greening the workspace, the commute and the home. In the past, the organization has hosted speakers and events to help link the importance of sustainability to NeighborWorks’ mission of serving communities. However, to adapt to the changes brought by Covid-19, NeighborWorks has had to shift the sustainability mindset to the remote work environment. Now, the organization is promoting activities such as “greening and cleaning” home offices, setting up an office recycling system, and installing power strips for all electronics to prevent “vampire power” or wasted energy. Staff are encouraged to reduce their printing and paper waste and recycle old paper files as well. Throughout the year, carbon footprint analyses and commuting surveys are conducted as touch points to evaluate collective progress.
Holding an organization-wide event has created the momentum for teamwork, building a green culture, and driving goal attainment. In an effort to enhance employee engagement, NeighborWorks promotes open discussion and learning opportunities through the sharing of lifestyle and gardening tips, interesting articles, and other online resources related to green initiatives.
Using Green Business Certification to Hold Accountability
In order to better serve partners and communities, NeighborWorks has made sustainability a top priority and the Green Business Bureau certification program has provided the simplicity and guided framework for planning and achieving goals both short- and long-term. Earning a green business certification was, in fact, a part of the organization’s larger Strategic Plan which initially formed during 2012 – 2016 and set out to support and reward network organizations (operational, organizational and programmatic) for their green efforts.
It was time that NeighborWorks adopted the same green thinking and practices into their own internal operations and since joining GBB, they have held themselves to a comprehensive operational standard and are keeping aligned with the long-term objectives of their Strategic Plan. Additionally, they have received LEED Silver certification for the commercial buildout of their newest location thus providing another set of standards to further their commitment and sustainability expertise. Indeed, using certification programs as supplemental tools is an effective strategy for supporting the success of plans and goals.
Building Community Resilience for a Secure Future
The green efforts made by NeighborWorks are not only to optimize the organization’s internal workings but are a part of a larger purpose, too. There are countless communities across America desperate for financial security, quality education and healthcare services, and affordable housing. The threat of climate change only amplifies their vulnerability. There is no doubt that community development services and experts are needed nationwide to ensure all communities have opportunities, access to critical services and resources, and environmental justice and social equity.
Improving sustainability performance and lowering environmental impact only strengthens NeighborWorks’ ability to serve partners and communities more reliably and, in turn, help them build long-term community resilience.