Implementing Sustainability & Managing Change

Last Updated:
Mon, 2017-01-16 14:30

The Green Monster: Overcoming Barriers to Organizational Change When Implementing a Green Strategy

But we’ve always done it this way. What’s wrong with the old way of operating?

Organizational change is one of the biggest barriers that companies must overcome to move forward and grow a business. Organizational change is triggered by declining or stagnating sales, a lack of brand value, employee dissatisfaction, communication breakdown or legal requirements. Given the current state of our economy, the environment is ripe for organizational change.

And what’s more, this whole pesky global warming thing keeps knocking at the back door.

The benefits of implementing a corporate environmental strategy include:

  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Attracting new employees
  • Developing employee carbon literacy
  • Driving and sustaining a company-wide carbon reduction strategy
  • Developing employee leadership skills
  • Building strong partnerships with local government, community organizations and other businesses, and
  • Strengthening community visibility and goodwill

Okay, we get it, going green saves green. But how in the heck do you start down this green path?

Change management is an effective tool for removing barriers to change, while defining and improving the structure of an organization. Everblue Training Institute offers courses in corporate sustainability management which outline effective implementation of corporate environmental strategies.

Here are five tips to get you started down the green highway today:

Include Everyone
Stakeholder engagement has been a staple of environmental organizing for years. Environmental thinking maintains that green issues must consider the Three P’s – People, Planet and Profit – to be truly sustainable. This means that holistic thinking is necessary.

Rather than force a brand new green program on employees that have been doing it their way for ten, twenty, even thirty years, host a series of engagement seminars, continuing education sessions and brainstorming chats. Engaging everyone from the most senior manager to newest intern is an important tactic.

Money and awards also motivate continued environmental progress. Combining carrots with sticks utilizes inter-employee competition to push a green strategy by making employees accountable. GE notably requires that managers present their team’s environmental progress in front of a panel of their peers and bosses.

Look at the Forest, Not the Trees
Successful implementers of environmental strategies think broadly about time, payoffs and boundaries. They look toward the future of regulations, laws and market behavior. They also make decisions based on intangible factors (i.e. non-monetary), including lower risk, higher employee retention, stronger customer loyalty and bolstered brand value. Finally, they look beyond their own operations at the entire lifecycle and supply chain of their operations.

Walk First
Many companies get so excited to jump on the green bandwagon that they forget the rules of introducing any new product. Don’t forget that adequate research and development and knowing the customer are irreplaceable. While it is important to think in broad brush strokes, it is also important to get down to the nitty gritty of designing pilot initiatives and analyzing the life-cycle performance and customer desire for a new product.

It is important to establish baseline metrics and then develop a way to monitor environmental progress. Whether you choose to monitor carbon reduced, trees not cut down, or water saved is up to you. But tracking progress and championing accomplishments keeps the ball rolling and engagement high.

However, beyond internal monitoring, truly green companies like Wal-Mart, Patagonia, and Herman Miller track the entire lifecycle of their products. This greening of the supply chain extends the reach of your company’s green strategy. This builds relationships with suppliers that strengthen your company. Finally, it increases credibility and builds customer loyalty.

Toot your own horn a little bit! Successful tracking and monitoring of eco-progress is important only insofar as employees, board members, shareholders and the public knows about your success. An internal report to all employees about the progress made, and why that progress is important, reinforces the overall strategy and increases employee engagement.

When marketing to the public, be certain to include successes and failures in order to make your reporting believable and avoid claims of “greenwashing.” Understand that your environmental record is important, but be certain to use environmental factors such as a Third Button when marketing a product. For example, the Toyota Prius has an award-winning power train, cool technological features, and helps save the planet. Patagonia products maintain a superior quality, high level of customer service, and contribute to a more sustainable world. Let the greenness of your company bolster an already-successful business.

Learn more about implementing a corporate sustainability program, hear case studies from companies that have succeeded, and talk to peers about their roadblocks and ideas. Sign up for an ISSP Sustainability Associate course at Everblue today.