Creating a Sustainable Business: Hiring a Sustainability Consultant vs. Forming an Internal Green Team

By now it is well known that corporate social responsibility is important–both to consumers and for the businesses themselves. Creating sustainable business provides short and long term benefits, in everything from attracting a wide base of socially conscious customers and earning their loyalty through green practices to minimizing operation costs and producing higher revenues. The question facing business owners now is how to become more socially responsible and sustainable. What is the most effective method to transition to sustainable business practices without disrupting the basic, essential flow of business?

Many businesses will choose either to create an internal team responsible for making the transition or higher an outside consultant. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so let’s explore which method would be best for your business.

Happy team. Isolated.Creating An Internal Green Team

Change comes from within, and one of the best ways to inculcate the necessary culture of sustainable practice and keep employees consistently aware of its importance is to have the employees do it themselves. Having the opportunity to directly effect change is inspiring and will not only give employees more value in their work, it will lead to inspired effort and the cultural spread of this inspiration. An internal green team can provide a steady structure for change over a long period of time and maintain focus as the initiative grows and evolves.

That said, taking this approach has its downfalls. Internal employees often do not have the necessary expertise to create and execute an effective sustainability plan, and adding this to their existing workload may leave them with little time to bring the focus that is necessary for such a change. And while their efforts may be noble, creating cultural change requires a certain level of expertise. What starts as an exciting initiative can turn into a dud if the team doesn’t have the knowledge to create a sustainable culture within the organization.

Hiring an Outside Consultant

Any company serious about becoming sustainable should consider this option. sustainability-consultant2Sustainability consultants have specialized knowledge and expertise about the functioning of a company as it relates to sustainability, and can create informed directives that will affect the most positive change. Working with a sustainability consultant provides the opportunity for swift and effective change. Comprehensive sustainability plans that can be clearly developed, put into practice and a consultant will provide the expertise and tools necessary to implement them.

The only drawback here is the additional cost. Some business owners are hesitant to spend the upfront cost of hiring a consultant. However, it can be costly with employee labor and investment costs of sustainability if not done correctly and strategically.

The Best of Both Worlds

Why not do both? In fact, many sustainability consultants are aware of the positive impact of an internal green team and assist in creating one as part of the package. This way, a truly effective plan can be put in place by an expert and then put into action by the employees themselves.

Whatever you determine is best for your company, pat yourself on the back–going green doesn’t just save you money or build a loyal customer base, it’s the right thing to do. Whatever approach you take to doing so, be proud of your good effort! Whether you are committed to making this next step or simply intrigued, please feel free to contact us for more information.

Defining Green Team Roles and Responsibilities

Happy team. Isolated.Green Teams are groups of green-minded co-workers and colleagues that can provide guidance and direction on sustainability initiatives within an organization. Often these teams are loosely formed and their role and responsibilities are not clearly defined. Providing clarity not only motivates the green team but can often help businesses go to the next level with their sustainability initiatives.

The following are possible roles and responsibilities your green team could have within your organization:

  • Conduct and analyze sustainability assessment/s
  • Set sustainability priorities and goals
  • Develop a sustainability project plan
  • Coordinate,  launch and support sub-task teams for sustainability initiatives
  • Advise on sustainability opportunities and innovations
  • Track, monitor and analyze sustainability metrics and measures
  • Address and manage challenges and constraints to the sustainability initiatives
  • Develop a sustainability communication plan and process
  • Recommend or provide sustainability education, support and offer advise to other employees

Green teams are an important asset to any organization and can be a source of motivation for innovation and business process improvements. According to Greenbiz.com, The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) released a not-too-startling report entitled “The Engaged Organization: Corporate Employee Environmental Education Survey and Case Study Findings” which confirms:

“By engaging employees, companies can spark innovative changes in everyday business processes that save money and reduce environmental and social impacts while also inspiring employees to make sustainable choices at home and in their communities.”

For more information about how to effectively build a green team in your organization, contact us.

Job Descriptions for Sustainability Officers and Directors

Acre, an executive search firm that specializes in sustainability and corporate responsibility personnel recently published a report on the evolution of the sustainability professional. The report, The Emergence of the Chief Sustainability Officer, is available free for download from their website.

Acre also provides three sample job descriptions that identify possible role and responsibilities for the following positions:

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager

Corporate Social Responsibility Director

The Chief Sustainability Officer

There is also a good job description available from the Sustainable Cities Institute for a Sustainability Officer.

On our eco-officiency website we also offer a one page summary on the role and need for corporate sustainability officers

Key Elements to Prepare for a Sustainability Plan: Identify a Green Team

Step 3: Identify a Green Team

Creating sustainability within an organization cannot happen with one person, even if a very savvy sustainability

manager or director has been assigned. Because sustainability permeates in all areas of an organization, it is helpful to have a team assigned to assist in the planning process. Identify key staff that have interest and influence in an organization to form a green team committee or task force that will develop the sustainability plan in conjunction with executive management and/or a sustainability director or manager. Ideally, this team should include a representative from each primary area or division of the company. Once the sustainability plan has been developed, this team can also meet on a regular basis to support the organizations green initiatives and address challenges as they arise.

Greenbiz.com has published a few good articles on green teams;

Wells Fargo 5 Best Practises for Engaging Green Teams

How to Build Successful Green Teams

Leading from the Middle: The Power of Green Champion