Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Business in a post-green world

by Marc Stoiber


A few months ago, Joel Makower of GreenBiz wrote an eye-opening article. He observed that with few exceptions, green brands had failed to capture more than a sliver of their markets.

The piece was thought-provoking, with a clarion call to rethink the way we position brands with strong sustainability credentials.

The subject deserves more analysis than an 800 word story can provide. So instead, I’ll touch on a few reasons behind consumer rejection of ‘green marketing as we know it’, and offer some thoughts on how we could build more resilient, successful green brands in the future.

Six good reasons to reject green

In 2011, OgilvyEarth released a study titled Mainstream Green. The research revealed that 82% of North American consumers had ‘good green intentions’, but only 16% acted on those intentions. Why? (

They feel guilty. Using green products implied making sacrifices in things like efficacy and price.  Buy a green cleaner, for example, and you feel bad about perhaps leaving the counters not-quite-so-clean.

It isn’t easy being green. Green = celebrity wannabe or crunchy granola hippie. Regardless of the moniker, making green choices means being labeled by your mainstream friends.

Green is the new pink. Half the population is male, and they think green is girly. Sure, green products used to tip the scales much more toward feminine (organics and spa products, for example). But today, green is energy, cars and lumber. Unfortunately, old impressions die hard.

Green costs. In some cases, it does cost more to make something green. But in a lot of cases it doesn’t. But similar to green being called ‘girly’, old perceptions die hard.

Green is confusing. When I got into green business, nobody could agree what the movement should be called: green, CSR, sustainable, and the list goes on. Sustainability may be a complicated, systemic issue, but our tendency to overcomplicate things like green certifications does the movement no favors.

Green suspicion. Why do more people buy Clorox Greenworks over Seventh Generation? Because they trust Clorox to get the job done. Mainstream consumers have a soft spot for mainstream companies. These are the companies who need to engage on the brand level.

Those are just a few of the reasons cited by OgilvyEarth for mainstream consumer reticence toward green. But is there a solution?

Futureproof brands

I believe we have to stop thinking about sustainability, and start thinking about futureproof brands.

Futureproof brands are brands that are resilient, that can thrive in a chaotic world. They’re brands that can weather storms created by sustainability issues (diminishing resources and punitive environmental legislation, for example). But they are also built for a world of cultural mashups, and a rapidly morphing communications landscape.

The following five pillars of futureproof brands may help us rethink our perspective on green for the mainstream.

Sustainability. Sustainability does make business sense. Unfortunately, as we see above, mainstream America isn’t buying it.

Smart brands like Nike believe the solution is to incorporate sustainability into every business decision, but not into the brand. That way, the promise of athletic performance is never diluted, but the company is positioned to perform more efficiently and sustainably.

Innovation. Many companies are ill-equipped to produce a steady stream of innovation. Most approach it haphazardly…a few pet projects in the pipeline, and little to no system for creating a steady stream of new products, services and business models.

For a brand to be futureproof, it must have an innovation plan that not only encompasses short term cosmetic changes, but longer term shifts that will line up with consumer needs 5, 10, 20 years from now.

Design. More than ever before, cultures are mixing and ethnic groups intermingling. English is not the de facto first language, America is not the sole generator of popular culture, and ideas do not flow in one direction from developed to developing markets.

In this cultural cacophony, what do all of us understand? Design.
Good design creates a visceral reaction in people. It conveys beauty while aiding function. It generates
feelings of wonder and drives desire.

Is your product well designed? Give it to a child or to someone who doesn’t speak your language, and see if they can understand how to use it. Even better, see if using it puts a smile on their face.

Perennial insights. Great brands are driven by great consumer insights.

It pays to hold up your key insights to scrutiny, and brainstorm on their relevance in the future. At worst, this exercise might provide you with the alarming news that people won’t need your product forever. At best, it will get you thinking with broader scope, and answering briefs that allow far greater innovation.

Social Interaction. I cut my teeth in an advertising world where brands were displayed in metaphoric show windows – consumers were only allowed to see them in their best light, and there was no interaction allowed.

Today, brands, and companies, are like fishbowls. Consumers can look at them from every angle, even stick their hand in and slosh around the water. There are no boundaries.

We all tend to think of social interaction as synonymous with social media. As a new technology. That’s missing the point.

The point is, people are getting involved. Communication is a two way street. We’re not creating communication campaigns, but movements. Can your brand embrace that?

And Your Brand?

Is your business ready for a post green world?

Here’s a good place to start looking for the answer. I call it getting outside the jar.

Once you’ve been at a company for more than 6 months, or working on a problem for more than that time, you’re inside the jar. The world looks normal, but you can’t see the most obvious things. Like the writing on the label.

The result? You end up going along the same old path, with the same old results

That won’t work if you’re trying to find your way in the post-green world. Because we need new ideas.

So I would challenge you to find someone, or a team of people, who can help you think outside the jar about where your company is going.

Get these people to study your company, or brand. And get their candid opinions on where it’s is going.
95% of what they say may not be relevant or useful. But I can guarantee you it will be surprising. And a few of their points may start your brand down the right path to future success.
Marc Stoiber is a creative director, entrepreneur, green brand specialist and writer. He works with clients to build resilient, futureproof brands.

Marc's leadership positions have included VP of Green Innovation at Maddock Douglas, President and Founder of Change Advertising, National Creative Director of Grey Canada and Creative Director of DDB Toronto.

He has helped two ad agencies rise from obscurity to market prominence, and his work has been recognized by virtually every international industry award for advertising and design.

Marc writes on brand innovation for Huffington Post, Fast Company, GreenBiz and Sustainable Life Media. He also speaks on the subject from coast to coast, and has been featured at TED. He can be reached at marc(at)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Launching and Supporting a Green Team

Every spring, eBay hosts an innovation expo that inspires its employees to come up with innovative ideas to benefit its users. In September of 2010, eBay announced the winner was a powerful idea called “simple green shipping.” This eBay-branded box reduced the environmental impact of the eBay marketplace because it was reusable and composed of 100% recycled content. The eBay Green Team was so enamored by the idea, they worked to make it successful world-wide. 100,000 boxes were sent to 100,000 people and eBay found that if each box was used 5 times, they would save 4,000 trees, 2.4 million gallons of water, and over 293 thousand watts of energy. EBay’s customers loved it too because it saved them money while saving trees. The commercial success of the box can be attributed to the efforts of the Green Team. This story has inspired us at Angelpoints to explore and think intuitively about the importance of Green Teams.

Typically, Green Teams consists of a voluntary group of employees that are dedicated to supporting waste reduction, recycling, and responsible purchasing of items such as light bulbs and paper. In the eBay example, a Green Team tested a sustainable innovative product design. Whatever your goals, here are some important steps to consider when establishing a Green Team at your company.

How do You Build a Successful Green Team Within an Organization?

· Strong Executive Support - The company must believe in the ideas that the Green Team puts forth, take it seriously and initiate it in a proper manner. The executive support validates the importance of team work within the organization and helps to prioritize and remove obstacles.

· Align Green Team Goals With Sustainability Goals of Company - This is significant because Green Teams won’t receive support if they are taking their goals in a different direction then the company’s goals.

· Foster Diversity Amongst Team Members – Choose representatives from different business units, department levels and cultures in order to provide varied perspectives and insights along with new ideas. Having management, administrative assistants, with IT and housekeeping as team members can give everyone the ability to contribute and become unique assets.

· Keep Teams Fresh - Move around positions of leadership among different people to create new opportunities for leaders and ideas.

Source: Webinar Powerpoint Slide #14 (Password: greenteam)

How do You Make Sure That Launching The Green Team Goes Smoothly?

· Appoint One or Two Team Leaders –Leaders should be committed to the program so they can manage the Green Team, oversee programs, and act as a liaison between management, maintenance staff, employees, and recycling vendors.

· Hold Meetings Consistently (Every Two Weeks Seems to Work Great) – The meeting should help to set up a basic program and discuss how to best implement this program. The team should make decisions and split up tasks.

· Come up with Project Ideas as a Team - The team should then come up with project ideas that can range from deciding what exactly to recycle, to deciding whether solar panels would be a worthy investment for the company.

· Create systems For Measuring And Tracking Initiatives - Technology and software tools are available today to help keep track of your progress and prove the worth of investment resources (i.e.

Benefits of The Green Team

Green Teams can have a profound effect in an organization, and for the planet. Shoshannah Lenski, from the Boston Consultancy office, found that 75% of surveyed employees thought that becoming environmentally conscious within a company was significant to morale, talent retention, and recruiting. This means that employee retention and engagement goes up by merely becoming greener! It also is critical in professional development. Clorox’s Suzanne Henricksen said her experience in managing a workplace change project was instrumental to her development of leadership skills.

The most evident benefit in establishing a Green Team comes from the reduction of costs and the environmental impact. Becoming efficient and sustainable pays off in the long run, because it saves energy and conserves resources. Betsy Hansen, a Senior Marketing Manager at Sun Microsystems, decided to eliminate one printed direct mail piece, which saved the company 4.63 tons of paper along with thousands of dollars. This can lead to an enhancement of brand reputation and profitability because consumers are more willing to buy from a company that shares similar values as them. In eBay’s case, the work of their Green Team led to product innovation and increased customer satisfaction.

Source: Webinar Powerpoint Slide #7 (Password: greenteam)


A Green Team is an excellent resource to gain a step ahead of the competition for companies moving towards sustainability. Employees will be willing to volunteer their time to move towards a greener company the majority of the time as long as the executives seem like they are encouraging it, and thus management should push the concept. If an organization uses these tips as guides to initiate and run the Green Team, the company may see very positive changes towards creating a green future.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adding 3D to Tech Innovation

Just got back from Fortune Brainstorm Tech, a gathering of innovators from all walks of technology, hosted at the stunning Aspen Institute. A super event put on by a great team at Fortune Magazine. I felt lucky to be among the speakers.

Tossed together were investors, large-company executives and start-up entrepreneurs, all in search of the best technology ideas. I can't capture it all here. We talked gaming, gadgets, security, social, mobile, media, clouds, commerce, and much more. Here are three new companies that stood out for me and epitomized the spirit of innovation I found there:

1. Sound Cloud - youtube for sounds.
2. Clever Sense - pandora for everything except music
3. Lytro - a camera that lets you take a shot and then, with ease, re-focus any part of the shot and create 3-D perspective. You could hear the "ooohs" and "ahhhs" during that demo.

On the final evening, two beers into a reception surrounded by blue-maroon peaks and lavender, our host greeted us with what felt something like a challenge. "You are change agents," she said. "You have the unique ability to change the world." Standing there at the height of dusk, shoulder to shoulder with some of the brightest entrepreneurs on the planet, it was hard not to feel like the possibilities were endless.

But here lies the rub. During two full days of seeing the coolest apps, games and devices under the sun, I can't recall one panel discussion or demo focused on this goal. I kept waiting for it. Instead, there was this recurring theme, playing over and over again: "we make the coolest stuff, which will make a ton of money, which we'll use to make cooler stuff that will beat our competitors, which will make us even more money." Coolness and riches reverberated through the hills like the sound of music. It was fun and addictive, but it was, in a sense, just hurling pigs at birds.

I found myself wanting more. Couldn't PhDs who had locked themselves in rooms for two years dreaming up ideas come up with ones that would inspire us and make the world better while making bundles of cash? The answer had to be "yes."

"Hey," I said to the CTO of Clever Sense, "what about using your app to serve up causes that match peoples' tastes as seamlessly as Pandora serves up their favorite tunes?" "We could do that," he said with genuine interest. To the hip, boyish founder of Sound Cloud I asked, "Could you guys crowd-source every bird call and capture the voices of refugees?" "Yes!" he declared, a grin revealing every one of his teeth.

These were change makers to be sure, and yet the whole conference seemed stuck in a two-dimensional world of coolness and wealth, when it could have achieved 3D vibrancy simply by adding the dimension of social consciousness. (In this regard, Katzenberg was both there and not there.) Fusing strong business models with strong social missions is one of the most important innovations in business today and companies young and old must explore this dimension if they hope to become and stay great.

Next year, I would like to lead a panel of three innovators who use their technology to address social issues that they are uniquely positioned to address. The questions I will ask are: 1) what issue(s) are you addressing? 2) how do you measure your social impact? and 3) how does your social mission affect your brand and your culture? I expect it will be a lively and inspiring conversation. I cannot wait.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Organizations Must Incorporate Sustainability Within Their Business Models in Order to Strengthen Their Brand and Create Efficiencies

On June 28, 2011, FedEx announced that it would release 4,000 new fuel efficient vehicles as part of an effort to decrease pollution and become more energy efficient. Dan Beal, the vice president of Global Vehicles at FedEx, stated that “Our goal has always been to optimize and operate our vehicle fleet in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner so that emissions are reduced while serving our customers in the best possible manner.” FedEx, like other leading organizations (including GAP*), understands that aligning CSR strategies to improve their business model efficiencies is a means to create both a reputable and profitable brand.

For a company to be sustainable, it needs to be environmentally conscious in making its business decisions, as well as energy efficient and more resourceful than its competitors. Companies are adapting their business models to become more sustainable because it gives them a competitive edge and consequently improve their profitability. When reading about “The impact of CSR on brand reputation and sales,” I saw that 56% of people are more loyal to a brand that shows that they care about the environment which has become a hot topic due to the increased scare of global warming. The article also shows that 61% of people are more likely to buy from a company that has a good reputation with respect to being genuinely committed to help improve the planet. This shows that sustainability and success are very strongly correlated since sustainability leads to reputation and reputation leads to more loyal customers.

Due to the economic downturn, and increased global competition, it has become crucial for companies to be sustainable. During this post-recession time, by becoming more sustainable, companies are being able to save energy and lower consumption of resources, and perhaps most importantly, boost productivity and increase brand awareness. Companies that don’t understand the business value of sustainability run the risk of impeding their growth and being hurt economically in the long-term. Small to large enterprises are digging their own graves by neglecting to take advantage of sustainability as an essential strategy to reduce costs and enhance efficiency because they are too engrossed in the short term outlook and profitability. The sustainability framework follows the rule of “less is more” by using fewer resources to produce the same, or more, outcome and during this process they will create efficiencies and reduce costs in the long term. Sustainability fosters resourcefulness and gives customers what they want while leaving behind small environmental footprints.

In summary, becoming a leading organization in any industry today means finding ways to become more sustainable. For some companies, this means producing more with less to cut costs while sending a strong message of conservation to customers. A recent survey release by Packaging World shows that 72% of businesses' sustainability initiatives exceeded their expectations in terms of benefits. Sustainability is considered in 68% of business decisions due to the advantages of cost reduction and brand enhancement. The profound effect that sustainability has for a business goes beyond profitability, making a lasting positive impact on the balance sheet, the community and the planet.

Related Links:

DHL also following the trend of becoming sustainable --

Initiatives eBay is taking in order to be energy efficient and sustainable --

*What GAP has done to be successful in its sustainability programs --

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hitting the CSR Jackpot

I got a flood of emails this morning from friends and business partners, all containing variations on the same subject line, "did you see the article in the Times this morning?" I clicked the links and glanced at the article's title: "To Be Good Citizens, Report Says, Companies Should Just Focus on Bottom Line." Uh oh, I thought, another jab, channeling Friedman, at our business model and my core beliefs about business. What will my team think? I thought about how I would cover up and downplay the news. I braced myself for concerned calls from our board and shareholders.

Fortunately, I was wrong. The article argues the same point that we have been making for years to our clients, namely that "traditional corporate social responsibility programs and corporate philanthropy aim primarily to produce a social benefit and that any profits that may materialize are byproducts." This is true. We recently surveyed over 100 companies and found that only 8 of them thought about profits when creating their social responsibility programs. I am constantly amazed by how sheepish our clients are about seeking out or stating clearly the financial benefits associated with their corporate responsibility initiatives. This is clearly a problem to fix.

If you read the Report about which the article was written, a short 14-pager that can be digested in about 5 minutes, you'll see three key points:

  • "Executives targeting profitability...will generate social benefits more efficiently and sustainably than those using typical strategies for CSR."

  • "Private benefits [i.e., profits] generated by investments that create social benefits can be very large, and so considering them may be as worthy of executives' time as other parts of their companies' operations."

  • "[Focus] on the single bottom line does not imply that companies' involvement in activities that create social benefits will diminish. On the contrary, we argue that these activities will become more common as companies make a case for them in terms of the single bottom line."

The authors correctly contend that, with respect to how they calculate social investments, most companies solve for Y, where Y equals social outcomes, when they should be solving for X, where X equals financial outcomes. Solving for X would allow these companies to make smarter and perhaps bigger social investments, thereby increasing Y.
The best example of a company that nails this proposition is Toms ( If you listen to Toms CEO and Founder, Blake Mycoskie, you'll hear an inspiring story about how he started the company with no business plan and only the desire to help others. On the surface, he's the opposite of the proverbial billiard player in Friedman's work, who makes "his shots as if he knew the complicated mathematical formulas that would give the optimal directions of travel." Listening to Mycoskie, you'd think he didn't care where the eight ball ended up. But semantics aside, here's a company that has generated enormous profit and shareholder value by making investments that create social benefits, exactly what the Times report advocates. Moreover, the company's soaring profitability is the critical factor in its ability to increase its investments in social benefits, as evidenced by their new commitment to cure lost vision in developing countries by selling great-looking sunglasses. If investments in social benefit don't create profit now or down the road, they should surely be scrapped; otherwise, they are detracting from a company's long-term viability. How can anyone's math refute this? Conversely, investments in social benefit that create enormous profit, like Toms, should be heralded as great business innovations and examples of corporate leadership for others to emulate.

What the authors of the report neglect to identify, in my opinion, is the profit multiplier effect that companies can create when they identify their own Toms opportunity. They touch briefly on the importance of aligning social mission with business model in a compelling way, when, for example, they say "a mining company would probably be better off training workers who could contribute to its supply chain than managing a primary school," but they don't go nearly far enough. The important observation for executives is that finding their Toms opportunity is about aligning mission and model in such a way as to make them profitable, exciting and inseparable. Like two sides of a coin, mission and model create value together. Without both, the value is dimished. When both are in perfect harmony, employees and customers sing your praises and customers and investors literally throw money at your company. I'd venture that today 99% of CSR programs do not accomplish this. Granted it may not always be easy to do -- what should Altria do? -- but when done right it can create much higher return for shareholders, because of the multiplier effect, than most any other investment the company can make.

When a company makes an investment that generates high social benefit, high revenue and high employee morale all at the same time, that's called hitting the jackpot. What the smartest CSR leaders should be seeking is to hit this jackpot by uncovering their Toms opportunities. If they do, they will not only generate huge profits and solve important social needs, but they may just find themselves in succession to become the next CEO. If you're interested in doing this, please let me know and we'll help.

Andy Mercy, CEO

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thoughts on Innovation and Responsibility Following a White House Business Council Roundtable

Last week I had the privilege of attending a White House Business Council Roundtable, part of a series of discussions between the Obama administration and business owners around the country. Twelve business owners and I, along with the Director of the Office of Advisory Committees at the Department of Commerce, discussed whether President Obama is acting on the promise he made in his State of the Union address, to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build our competitors,” and what more can be done to get there. I learned about some of the good work the administration is doing and learned from the experiences of my peers, but I left feeling like Obama and his team were missing a great opportunity to fulfill this promise by capitalizing on one of the most exciting innovations in U.S. business history. I call this innovation the “Tom’s Shoe Moment.”

The Tom’s Shoe Moment finds its roots in our country’s unique brand of social responsibility that De Tocqueville first identified in the late 19th century. Most recently, it is borne out of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement, which strives to align business objectives with social and environmental objectives in order to create new business opportunity. I’d say it’s the culmination of this effort, in fact, moving from alignment to total integration, as has been achieved by the Tom’s Shoe company. If you’re not familiar with Tom’s, check them out. They are growing fast, with a tribe of fanatical customers and employees that think of their mission and (business) model as inseparable truths. Their “One for One” model means that with every pair of shoes they sell, they give one to a child in need. It’s simple and clear and the company has out-innovated its competitors with this innovation. Never before has the opportunity for this type of innovation been greater. There is no denying that a tipping point has been reached in the psyche of the American consumer, investor and employee that makes this innovation possible.

If I were part of the Obama administration, hoping to out-innovate while ushering in the “new era of responsibility” that he so eloquently summoned in his inaugural address, I would take a close look at this model and think about how to incentivize more businesses to shift towards it, as well as how to export it for the world to follow. As it now stands, far too large a chunk of federal investments goes towards strategies that don’t support this type of innovation. I believe the President cannot execute on his promise unless he shifts investments towards programs that accomplish this type of true innovation. Businesses that start now have the advantage of being able to fuse mission and model from the very beginning. Companies that have legacy models will take time to evolve and would benefit from help.

When it comes to out-educating, I think we should look to this same tradition for a clue. As a parent of three, I have seen first-hand what bands of volunteers can do for a public school. They instruct, fundraise, feed, make safe and generally help the place hum. Our budget-starved public elementary school wouldn’t be half the place it is were it not for our volunteers. The problem for many schools, particularly in our inner-cities, is that parents don’t have the time to volunteer frequently because they work so hard. I see an opportunity for the retiring boomer generation to fill this void and make an enormous difference in our public schools. Policy should support this strategy by offering these boomers incentives to get involved.

Americans have always loved to band together to help. As the President said in his inaugural speech, the problems we face may be new, but this spirit is old, dating back to our founding fathers. He’d be smart to tap this uniquely American spirit if we are to out-innovate and out-educate for years to come.

- Andy Mercy, CEO

Monday, January 31, 2011

Astonishing Volunteer Management Data

At AngelPoints, we are continually leveraging our technology platform’s usage data to increase participation in employee volunteer programs (EVPs), sustainability initiatives, and employee giving/disaster response campaigns. One figure that was recently shared internally is how much of an impact using the volunteer event promotion tools has on event participation.

Over 87,000 events created through AngelPoints Enterprise Volunteer Solution (EVS) were analyzed, and it was determined that when a company creates an event without using the event promotion tools available in EVS, 52.1% of the events have participants. In contrast, when a company uses the event promotion functionality of AngelPoints EVS, the participation figure skyrockets to 94.5%. The beauty of the AngelPoints event management tool is that it allows for easy segmentation, deep customization, and powerful deliverability to make sure the event promotion efforts are maximized without requiring a lot of input from the system manager.

This is a great reminder for everyone running an EVP, regardless of what technology you use to manage it: make sure to understand what your technology is capable of. In addition, consider the importance of usability; the easier your technology is to use, the more it will be used, and the more effective your volunteer programs will be. Lastly, when promoting a volunteer event, make sure you understand how to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Top 3 Strategies for Sustainability Employee Engagement

Incorporating sustainability in business strategy is a continually evolving topic. Not long ago, most would consider sustainability as a topic primarily suited for companies looking to reduce waste in their production process. More recently, a lot of attention has been placed on reducing waste within a company’s supply chain. Today, the vision for incorporating sustainability into business strategy has expanded even wider, and is now applicable to businesses of all types and sizes. The new frontier in sustainability is engaging employees in sustainability, and that’s where HR professionals come in.

There have been good and bad approaches to engaging employees with sustainability, so before we get into all the great ways HR leaders are tackling this new frontier, I have a word of caution. While it is great to encourage your employees to take actions that save company resources, and promote healthy and sustainable living, credit must be given to the employees. As soon as a company neglects to give credit to its employees for their sustainable behavior, the company opens itself up to being criticized for taking credit for their employees’ actions, and risks being accused of green-washing.

Now that the word of warning is out of the way, we can get into all the great ways HR leaders are engaging their employees in sustainability. Here are the top sustainability oriented employee engagement strategies and tactics we’ve seen employed by HR leaders:

  1. Involving employees in the company’s commitment to become carbon neutral or reduce carbon emissions.
  2. Engage employees in reducing waste, saving resources, and living healthy.
  3. Rewarding employees who achieve goals that are aligned with the company’s sustainability strategy.

The first strategy is a good place to start for HR professionals looking to embrace sustainability employee engagement. Companies have gone about achieving this strategy by promoting walking, biking, and carpooling to work. Using a carbon calculator, you can measure how much initiatives to promote sustainable commuting are reducing the carbon footprint of your company. Tracking this on an ongoing basis can be tedious, but is certainly possible. Also, automated means for tracking and rewarding these sorts of behavior is available. The main benefit to your company is that this strategy aligns employee values with company values, which in turn helps turn employees into ambassadors for your brand.

The second strategy is where sustainability employee engagement starts to get sophisticated. Putting in place the right process and system to measure exactly how much employees are reducing waste, saving water, saving trees, and living healthy can do wonders for engaging employees. When an employee sees how their personal lifestyle changes impact the company, the environment, and themselves, it reinforces the connection employees have with your company, and empowers them to realize an internal paradigm shift to a more conscientious person. On the flip side, what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get recognized.

The third strategy is a great approach to layer on to a core sustainability employee engagement program. Some company’s have engaged their employees with sustainability focused contests, and have offered prizes for high achieving employees, departments, or offices. One approach is to have offices or departments competing against each other to see who can save the most trees, conserve the most water, lose the most weight, eliminate the most waste, or reduce their carbon footprint by the largest amount. Obviously, you’ll want the reward to have a sustainable focus, but other than that, most any reward will do. The real focus is on the process of behaving more sustainably in a fun and engaging way.

Engaging employees with sustainability initiatives is a powerful component of a sustainable business strategy. Sustainability employee engagement produces tangible results in the form of retention, recruitment, and creating brand value. This brand value is especially important in a new business landscape where turning employees and market influencers into brand ambassadors adds more value to a company than the old recruitment and retention tactics that worked well prior to the age of social media and transparency that we are now all a part of.

The most visionary HR and marketing leaders are already making employee engagement through sustainability a business imperative. The fact that they are able to do so at lower cost than their cohorts at large enterprises due to leveraging the same technology that large enterprises use, and employing their best practices, is all the more reason to adopt sustainability policies. A strong sustainability employee engagement program distinguishes their company from their competitors, both in the eyes of their current and future employees, and their customers. For additional reading on the topic, check out The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Engagement.